The winners of The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation’s sixth annual Business Innovation Competition were announced April 20, with $17,500 in prize money being distributed to those who placed in the top four.
The proposal for the Freedom Model Trumpet most impressed the judges, winning Mackenzie Miller, a senior music major in the UT College of Communication and the Arts, the first-place prize of $10,000.“The panel thought Mackenzie’s proposal was amazingly impressive,” said Dr. Sonny Ariss, professor and chair of the Management Department.
Miller’s company, Miller Handcraft, designs and produces high-quality handcrafted trumpets. The Freedom model will be the first product to be launched. It combines the use of three standard piston valves, as well as an additional three-piston hand slide. This combination allows the musician to choose from the larger variety of musical performance styles.
Originally from Orrville, Ohio, Miller said she fell in love with UT when she came here to major in engineering.
“My family is very musically inclined,” Miller said. “I started playing the flute in the fifth grade and switched to the trumpet in high school.”
At UT, she switched her major to music. Then she started building the Freedom model trumpet.
“No one has been commercially producing these for years, and some old existing models sell for up to $10,000,” she explained. “So I build these myself, buying sheet metal, hammering it out.”
A UT bus driver, Miller said she learned about the annual business plan competition — which is open to UT faculty, staff and students — by seeing a poster.
“I was already planning on developing the business. I watched YouTube videos about developing a business plan and checked out the websites of suggested business plan sites, which were on the poster,” she said.
Miller said after her proposal had passed the first round of judging and she was asked to present before the judges, she was quite nervous.
“I’m very shy,” Miller said, “but the panel was very supportive of this, and they gave me the confidence of going in the right direction.”
Miller will graduate this week and plans on continuing the business. The list price of her trumpet is $4,500.
“I hope to eventually be able to make about 25 at a time over a three-month period, selling them online and by going to conferences. Ideally, I would like to perform with a symphony and continue building trumpets.”
Others taking home prizes from the competition were:
• Second-place winner ($5,000) — Quick Deploy, Casualty Carry Harness by Joseph Strobbe. The deployable harness empowers a single individual to efficiently remove an injured person from immediate danger while maintaining full use of his or her hands.
• Third-place winner ($2,000) — IceTyme by Kevin Gibson. The only app and website business plan in this year’s finals competition, IceTyme focuses on the marketing of ice rinks and targets hockey players, figure skaters, open skaters and rink managers to efficiently fill the facilities.
• Fourth-place winner ($500) — Morpho Bag by Hannah Ogden, Kathryn Whitehill, Justin Lyberger and Andrea Liedel. This product will provide an improved method for removal of specimens during a laparoscopic procedure.
“The sixth year of the business competition was a remarkable success, as the College of Business and Innovation received 25 entries from across UT campuses,” Ariss said. “I cannot be happier than to see the students of the four winning entries this year going for their goals. Through this competition, as well as through classes and other activities in the College of Business and Innovation, we choose to play an important role in fostering the entrepreneurial spirit by encouraging people to start their own businesses.”
“The spirit of entrepreneurship is critically important to the ongoing success of every university and every community,” noted Dr. Gary Insch, dean of the College of Business and Innovation. “Our business competition truly reflects our emphasis on supporting innovation, fostering creative thinking, and nurturing the entrepreneurial environment, which is so essential for the economic growth of this region.”
“We owe special thanks to the panel of area business professionals who donated their time and talents to serve as judges in the competition, carefully reviewing each of the 25 entries in the competition and then meeting with the finalists, hearing their presentations, and questioning them about their projects,” Ariss said.
The judges were:
• Daniel Slifko, chief operating officer at Rocket Ventures LLC;
• Joel Epstein, managing director and principal, Waverly Partners LLC;
• Chris Anderson, president, Anderson Strategy LLC;
• Anthony Calamunci, managing director, Fisher Broyles LLC;
• Craig Burns, attorney, Marshall Melhorn LLC;
• Tom Schmidt, Ed Schmidt Automotive; and
• Charles Hodge, financial advisor, Mass Mutual.
Prize money is awarded to the newly formed business entities, not to the individual.