By Christie Duffy
It’s an amateur Shark Tank, with a real world prize — $10,000. Teams of college students compete to take their ideas out of the classroom and into the marketplace. Ideas like online consulting for small businesses.
“Gladiator is a social media app that promotes healthy fitness competition,” explained Montclair State University student Augusto Suarez.
“Our product is a vinyl adhesive sticker that can be placed on the bottom of any high-heeled shoe to give you the instant designer look and feel without the designer cost,” said MSU student Mackenzie Krauss, representing Sport Your Sole.
“We thought why not offer mock interviewing, but in a scalable way, doing it over the internet?” asked student Matt Cartagena.
Four teams pitched to a panel of infomercial stars and billion-dollar entrepreneurs. A.J. Khubani started his “As Seen on TV” empire while he was still a student at Montclair State University. That’s why he brought the “Inventors Day” competition to his alma mater.
“Quite frankly I wish they could all be winners. It was very difficult to choose just one,” Khubani said.
These students spent a year perfecting their pitches — and they got grilled by the judges.
“You had a little stumble up there. What happened? What kind of competition do you have?” asked judges.
Teams spent some stressed-out minutes waiting for the big reveal. The grand prize winner was Sport Your Sole.
There were cheers, tears and hugs before the team sported their soles for a picture with the prize.
“The Sport Your Sole team had already gone out and sold some and to me that’s tangible. That is hard evidence that people want this product,” said infomercial pitchman Anthony “Sully” Sullivan.
In fact, you might see Sport Your Sole products soon. The team says they’ve already found a demand for them on campus.
“If we do a deal with them, within the next year it will be on TV and in every major retail store in the country. And hopefully in countries around the world,” said Khubani.
Talk about supply and demand. Montclair State says there is already a waiting list of students trying to get into this pitch program for next year.
“You know everyone sees on TV the Shark Tank stuff and you think, ‘Oh if I can just come up with an idea it is so simple.’ It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You’re constantly changing your idea, constantly getting new feedback. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience but it’s a lot harder than it looks,” Krauss said.
But still the winner says, never be afraid to go for it. The real profit was the learning experience.