The wheels on the bus come to WC: Students pitch business ideas for Startup Maryland, hoping for success

By Michael Harman
Senior Writer

Do you have a plan or business venture that you have always wanted to start? Have you ever wanted to share that idea with the world? Thanks to Startup Maryland, students all around the state are given the opportunity to do so.

This regional organization was launched from a larger organization called Startup America Partnership (SAP). A more national organization provided to people all over the country, SAP “highlights the importance of startups as innovators and job creators.” They also “give startups access to the relationships, opportunities, and knowledge they need to succeed,” as stated by the SAP mission statement.

Startup Maryland is essentially the same program, yet only pertaining to startups in Maryland. CEO of Startup America Partnership, Scott Case, said “as one of our most active regions over the past year, Startup Maryland has attracted more than 500 startup participants in eight months since officially launching.”

Basically, the Startup Maryland Program strives to obtain a personal level with all of those who are interested in starting a new business. Driving around the state in a large yellow bus, it would be hard to miss the Startup Co-chairs Michael Blinko and Julie Lenzer Kirk. They travel around to various cities/schools, making stops to hear the business ideas of those with grand ideas. This year, each student was to make a video which would be put on YouTube, stating their idea and what they would do if they could go further with their businesses idea. The object is to garner as many views on YouTube as you can.

“The fan favorite competition ends at noon on Nov. 6, so we have until then to generate as many views as we can on YouTube. The top three entrepreneurs’ videos are then invited to pitch their idea at the Technology Development Coordination (TEDCO) conference,” said Carly Ogren, senior and Startup Maryland participant.

Stewart Bruce, the Geographic Information Systems program coordinator and assistant professor in Anthropology, had a part in getting Startup Maryland to come to Washington College.

“Last year I had heard about the Startup Maryland Pitch Across Maryland the night before the bus came to Chestertown. I was encouraged to pitch an idea for a spin-off from our GIS lab here at WC.” Thanks to that last minute effort to make his voice known, Bruce “is now preparing a grant to TEDCO to develop a business plan and spin-off a for-profit company.”

Now that Bruce knows all about the great things that Startup Maryland has to offer to people, he was not hesitant in wanting students to commit to presenting their ideas.

“I worked with professor Joe Bauer in the Business Management department to connect to students he was already working with in his entrepreneur class to find interested students who wanted to pitch their business ideas,” he said.

In addition to the five students of Bauer’s, a student who works at the GIS lab presented his idea, as well as Bruce himself, wanting to pitch a second spin-off idea called Weyr Media.

The bus for Startup rolled up to WC on Wednesday, Sept. 11, which is when students all had the chance to pitch their ideas and make their YouTube video debuts.

Ogren said that the reason that she had decided to participate in Startup was thanks to her business professor and thesis advisor, Bauer.

“At first I was hesitant, since we only had a little time to prepare, but I realized I could only gain from this experience,” she said.

Ogren has a unique business opportunity which has somewhat already taken off.

“My pitch is to expand my current online-order, baking business into a storefront bakery with two separate kitchens: one to prepare regular baked goods, and the other to prepare gluten-free baked goods,” she said.

Ogren even has a website in which anyone can view her menu and place an order for her specialty baked goods:

The ideas do not stop there, though. Junior Ashley Myles pitched an idea for a bottle sock to keep the bottoms of water bottles from being broken. Junior TJ Heist pitched an expansion for his current business “Totally Tubular” water sports.

Even though each student has a different idea and is competing for an exclusive spot to pitch in front of TEDCO, all agree that Startup is a wonderful opportunity, not just for people around Maryland, but around the nation.

“This is a great opportunity for our students. I think that a lot of students have really good ideas and this is a great way for them to get out and promote their ideas. It is a learning process. And it is not limited to just business management majors either,” said Bruce. “All students should get excited about possibly pitching their ideas and starting a business.”

Ogren agrees and believes that pitching your idea is one of the hardest things about starting a business. “It’s like taking a leap of faith,” she said. “Startup is providing entrepreneurs with the invaluable opportunity to take the next step, investing our time and not fearing failure.”

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