Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising
The Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising (CIEF) serves as a beacon for students searching for real-world experiences that allow them to innovate and be an entrepreneur in a learning environment. Through events, such as Breakthrough Weekend, BigIdea! Pitch Contest, and the Maverick Business Plan Competition, students can compete for startup funding, while receiving critical feedback on their business idea, as some go on to start a business.
Edward Whittle, 1st Runner-Up in the 2020 BigIdea! Pitch Contest, commented on his experience saying:
“The questions asked by the judges after my pitch were valuable to me. Those are the items that needed clarification, which future clients will need as well. I’m glad I can look into those items during the planning stages of my startup.”
Furthermore, through the Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference young professionals nationally and internationally can learn and develop skills necessary in the realm of entrepreneurship. Through courses, such as the Maverick Venture Fund, students also learn about key principles necessary to fund and evaluate startups, invest real money, and work with portfolio companies comprised of student, alumni, and community ventures, to grow and scale operations.
2020 BigIdea! Pitch Contest
This October, CIEF hosted its 11th Annual BigIdea! Pitch Contest, where students across all colleges at the University of Nebraska Omaha competed in this two-round virtual contest for over $1000 in cash prizes. In the first-round students were asked to submit a 90-second recording of themselves pitching their business idea and submit it to our event page on ShortStack. Unique to this year’s event, participants were able to receive votes for their idea through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There were 3 pitch categories: Tech-Based, Non-Tech-Based, and Non-Profit. The idea with the most votes in each category automatically advanced to the final round and received a cash prize of $100.
Justin Krug, 2nd Runner-Up in the 2020 BigIdea! Pitch Contest, explained his favorite aspect of the contest stating:
“I really enjoyed how streamlined the whole contest was thanks to the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising (CIEF). I particularly liked the fan-favorite voting aspect of the competition, as I thought it was an awesome way to get more people involved and ultimately give well-earned exposure to deserving young UNO entrepreneurs.”
After voting and judging closed, 3 fan favorites and 9 top-scoring participants were selected to move on to the Final Round on November 17, 2020. The final round was hosted live through Zoom Webinar, where finalists pitched live to a panel of 6 judges and audience members. This year’s judge panel consisted of Euloge Sekle, Business Specialist at Wells Fargo, Casey Kidwell and Brandon Warrington, Attorneys at Husch Blackwell, Carrisa Castro, Co-Founder of Logica, Osvaldo Montelongo, Founder of Connect Care Hero, and Nate Watson, President of Contemporary Analysis.
After a tough debate between judges, Kaitlyn Baysa, and her idea, Actívate, received top recognition as Winner of the 2020 BigIdea! Pitch Contest. Joining her on the winner’s stage, was Edward Whittle and Justin Krug, who received 1st Runner-Up and 2nd Runner-Up, respectively. Kaitlyn, Edward, and Justin represented three distinct colleges at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Kaitlyn, along with 5 other students in the final round, represented the College of Information Science and Technology. Edward was the exclusive representative of the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media. Justin, including 2 other finalists, represented the College of Business Administration.
Kaitlyn Baysa, senior in the College of Information Science and Technology, and University Honors Program, graduating with her Bachelor of Science in IT Innovation, with a minor in Spanish, pitched the idea, Actívate. Actívate is a non-profit educational resource for Spanish speaking students in middle-late elementary school that assists students in learning the basics of computer science. She aims to diversify the technology field by developing a website that offers learning modules in Spanish. Her mission is to empower Spanish-speaking students by activating learning, creativity, and confidence in the next generation of technologists.
Edward Whittle received 1st Runner-Up in the 2020 BigIdea! Pitch Contest. Edward pitched the idea Music Ringer, a web application that allows users to effectively view and hire musicians. Currently, there are no effective ways to locate and hire reputable musicians, resulting in millions of gigs worldwide being left unmatched. Music Ringer addresses this problem as its mission is to connect musicians with the world by allowing them to become more discoverable and successful.
Justin Krug is a senior in the College of Business Administration pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and Business Management. Justin won 2nd Runner-Up with his idea Chim. Chim is a premium Christmas stocking line that allows consumers to show off their school allegiance. By taking advantage of being the first mover in the local Omaha area, Justin plans on utilizing peer to peer marketing and social media marketing to establish a proof of concept before adding to his product line and scaling nationwide.