K-State Launch program helps student entrepreneurs build a business 

K-State Alumni Communications 

Harrison Proffitt (left) and Ben Jackson received one of the two top $5,000 prizes in the Launch competition for their company Bungii, which connects customers with a driver and pickup through a mobile application — “the Uber of pickup trucks.” (Courtesy photo)

Student entrepreneurs have the opportunity to turn their business dreams into reality through the Kansas State University Launch program. The competition — which is organized by the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration — invites students to develop a feasible business plan and pitch their idea to a panel of judges made up of local entrepreneurs, bankers and industry experts. The top teams split $20,000 in prize money to help start their businesses.

About 300 students entered the fall 2015 Launch competition, and 16 finalists were selected. Of those, six individuals or teams received prize money, and the top three teams were invited to make their pitches again for a chance to represent K-State at the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge, hosted by K-State. 

"K-State Launch is an opportunity to showcase the tremendous entrepreneurial talent at K-State," said Chad Jackson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship. "The real-world experience of pitching a business in front of the type of business experts we have on our panel is invaluable to these students, and provides real-world feedback and support to launch companies within our state."

Ben Jackson and Harrison Proffitt received one of the two top $5,000 prizes for their company Bungii, which uses a mobile application to connect customers with a driver and pickup for small-scale moves — “the Uber of pickup trucks.” While they have already tested their idea with more than 350 moves in the Manhattan area over the summer, Jackon and Proffitt said the Launch experience was invaluable for helping them spread awareness about their business and learning more about starting a company. They plan to officially launch Bungii in the Manhattan and Kansas City markets in early 2016. Follow the company's progress online

“It was suspenseful but exhilarating and exciting, all the same time,” Proffitt said, adding that he and Jackson know there is still a lot of work ahead of them on the path to success. “It’s one step along the way.” 


David Weidmaier, Drew Wills, Savannah Stewart and Larisa Sica received the second $5,000 prize in the Launch competition for their company EnviroStarch, which provides a durable, cost-effective, renewable alternative to plastic products. (Photo: Ashley Pauls)
David Weidmaier, Drew Wills, Savannah Stewart and Larisa Sica received the second $5,000 prize for their company EnviroStarch, which provides a durable, cost-effective, renewable alternative to plastic products. 

“It was a great experience,” Weidmaier said. “We were able to put all our ideas together and see an end product. It’s a huge opportunity; it’s just fantastic to see all the work we’ve put into it paying off.”

It’s an experience that continues to pay off for Jordan DeLoach, who won the spring 2015 competition and received a first-place prize of $10,000 for his pitch for Twitistics, a social media background check company. He said the Launch experience helped him focus on the holistic process of building a business, considering not just the product but the entire effort, including financials and marketing. The program also connected him with several industry mentors who are helping him through the process of expanding his business. 

“Launch really requires you to have some difficult conversations with yourself about the feasibility of your idea and really putting the plan on paper,” he said. “It's easy to have great ideas that may be something — it's much more difficult to actually create a business plan and a slide deck to pitch to potential investors. It really puts your idea through some tough tests it will need to endure if it will be successful in the long term.”

Other fall 2015 prize winners were: 

• $4,000: Jordan Thomas and MacKenzie Wade of Edimorphosis, a company providing insect-based, nutritious, high-protein products for cooking and snacking.
• $2,500: Jane Chaffee and Morgan Dreiling with {Re}Greek, a website enabling graduating sorority members to resell greek apparel. 
• $2,500: Gabe Battis, Taylor Carr and Melody Schoneboom with Flyover Board Co., a company producing handcrafted cruiser-style skateboards. 
• $1,000: Alex Bentzinger with Bentz Creative, a company offering a host of creative services such as photography, graphic design, basic Web design and more.

 Learn more about the Launch program at K-State. 
 

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