LEWISTON — Sophomore economics major Quinn Gardner likes to make smoothies in his dorm room after rowing practice.

So why not scale that up? he thought. How about smoothies for all?

Enter the Bobcat Ventures Pitch Competition.

On Saturday, he and rowing teammate Mats Terwiesch pitched their business plan for Blended, an on-campus smoothie cart at Bates College serving health-conscious combos like strawberry-banana and blueberry-peanut butter.

“I remember walking through our dining hall (and seeing the sign) ‘entrepreneur’s competition,'” Terwiesch said. “(I thought,) this is a way to get our smoothies.” 

It worked.

In its second year, the business competition run by students for students had seven teams competing for $11,000 and solid advice.

“A lot of times, I think there’s a perception liberal arts students can’t be entrepreneurs,” said Creighton Foulkes, one of the student organizers. “We want to spread the message that it is possible and it can be done and help give them the tools to do it.”

Students spent the past several months in how-to workshops, hearing from business owners and Bates alumni. Prize money was raised through the Advancement Office. 

Placing first and second last year: an idea for an app called SpotShot! that involves photos and graphic overlays and an idea to open an on-campus textbook exchange.

“I don’t think (the text book exchange) succeeded, but they probably learned a lot in the process, which is totally fine,” Foulkes said. “Businesses fail.”

Kim Trauceniek, associate dean of students for campus life, said she encouraged students who bounced plans off her to think about post-graduation logistics.

“How is it sustainable, how is it scalable?” she said. “How does it fit into your long-term master plan?

“They’re so smart,” she said. “They’re so creative. They’re so innovative. I think Bates is a great incubator for their ideas.”

Pitches for the second-annual competition ranged from smoothies to aerial drones to tackling serious immigration issues.

Gideon Ikpekaugu, a junior economics and Spanish major, was born in Nigeria but now lives in the Netherlands. His pitch for a company called NICMEC would help new arrivals in the Netherlands from Nigeria navigate the complicated language and information barriers.

Ikpekaugu, who speaks Igbo, English and Dutch, said he had good luck and people pulling for him. Not everyone has that. They run into issues paying bills, getting insurance or getting their children into good schools.

“My dad’s friends will sit in the living room, always complaining about how they’re being screwed by the system,” he said. “I’ve seen so many lives ruined. Hopefully some of them can be resurrected.”

Ikpekaugu, who missed out on funding, said he was excited to go home this summer and work on the idea.

A panel of three Bates alumni awarded the third-place prize of $1,000 to Green Line Productions, a drone-based videography and photography production company.

The second-place prize of $2,500 went to Blended.

Terwiesch, who’s also a sophomore economics major, said time, space and money had all been issues keeping them from a launch. They’re hoping to debut their smoothie cart in the fall with a possible trial run this spring.

Nima Olumi, a junior economics major from Boston, scored first place with Lightyear Strategies. 

Olumi said the marketing and branding company that he founded in January helps businesses upgrade their websites by improving upon existing templates like Squarespace and Weebly.

He plans to open an office in Boston this summer with a staff of eight. The competition’s prize money, $7,500, will go toward the first month’s rent.

Olumi said he’s already charted 75,000 companies in that area and ranked their websites from A (great) to F.

“We approach the Fs, the Ds, the Cs and say, ‘Hey, we’d really like to talk to you about redoing your website,'” Olumi said.

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This story was updated April 6 to reflect SpotShot!’s availability in the Apple iTunes store.


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