News • March 29, 2022

CBU students pitch entrepreneurial ideas at business plan competition

CBU students pitch entrepreneurial ideas at business plan competition

Jared Prewett (from left), Carson Merrill, Austin Esquerra, Josh Bromby and Jack Lee win the Business Plan Competition.

Riverside, Calif. (March 29, 2022) – Nine teams of students from California Baptist University pitched ideas for innovative products and services at the annual Bob Goodrich Business Plan Competition on March 28.

During the event, hosted by the Robert K. Jabs School of Business, the teams presented a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges and an audience of over 150 students.

“We style it as a ‘Dolphin Tank’ style event,” Dr. Gramling, dean of the School of Business, said, making a reference to the TV show “Shark Tank.” “It is not intended to harm or to be mean-spirited, but to give students feedback and to nudge them in the right direction, like a dolphin would.”

The competition resulted in the top three teams each receiving scholarship money intended to fund the start of the business proposed by each team. The prize money given to the first-, second- and third-placed teams was $7,500, $5,000 and $2,500 respectively. The judges’ opinions as well as a survey of the audience members’ opinions determined the winners.

The winning team, WaiSmart, pitched a mechanical-electrical engineering mechanism that controls shower temperature and water flow. GeoChat received second place for a geo-smart app that would allow for communication in a college community within a geographic area. SafeSuds, which offered a sustainable and clean approach to washing cars, earned third place.

Carson Merrill, Jared Prewett, Jack Lee, Josh Bromby and Austin Esquerra, all mechanical engineering juniors, made up WaiSmart. They originally began to develop their idea in an engineering design class. Then, they decided to submit it to the Business Plan Competition.

Throughout the process, the team received advice from professors such as Dr. Phil van Haaster, dean of the Gordan and Jill Bourns College of Engineering.

“I (learned through) going to other sources and other people to get help on the stuff,” Lee said. “We are engineers. We do the math, we do the science. We don’t know the business. It showed to me that you don’t just do it by yourself.”

The team enjoyed participating in the fast-pitch event and seeing their hard work pay off.

“Even if we didn’t win, I had total calm over me,” Merrill said. “[The judges] thought it was such an incredible idea, but it was so challenging and complicated that they acknowledged all the work we put into it. I think that was the highlight for me.”

In the weeks prior to the event, School of Business faculty met with the groups to discuss their business plans and products and share real-world knowledge. Then, nine finalists were chosen to present.

Dr. Marina Girju, associate dean of the School of Business, said that the format of the Business Plan Competition allows for students to gain valuable insight from the experience, regardless of whether they win or lose.

“There was a lot that the students and the groups overall actually learned, so if you are thinking about the benefit of the competition, it is not only winning, but it is the learning that they actually went through in the entire process,” Girju said.

During the event, the teams give a five-minute pitch for their product or service, and then the judges asked questions.

Nolan Gouveia, the department lead for entrepreneurship, said he enjoyed seeing the increased involvement of students from across CBU this year and witnessing the development of interdisciplinary teams.

“This year more than any other year, it was cool to see how many other majors were represented,” Gouveia said. “In years past, it was very heavily business students, but my goal has always been to get it across the whole campus. We saw students from engineering, CAVAD, health sciences, kinesiology, the life sciences and a lot from business. That’s what makes it robust.”

Gramling said he was impressed by the innovation and diversity of the products presented at this year’s competition.

“The main thing for us is to inspire entrepreneurship among our student body and have those ideas turn into actual businesses,” Gramling said. “We have had that happen where students come through the competition, they win prize money, and then several of them take that money and turn it into businesses. That really was the goal from the beginning, and we saw some great opportunities for the students in this year’s competition.”

Contact CBU Marketing and Communication

Vice President for Marketing and Communication:
Angela Meluski

8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504