Big Ideas, Uninterrupted

This year’s Big Ideas Challenge had some challenges of its own navigating in a virtual world, but the contest continued and the showdown on Tuesday yielded not only a winner, but one of the biggest audiences yet.

And everyone had a good view.

Ordinarily held in the Ostrander auditorium in an awards-ceremony atmosphere, the competition of young entrepreneurs for thousands in prize money this year took place online on Tuesday, April 14.

The winner of the competition, Logan Sendle, received both the $5000 as the judge’s pick and $2000 as People’s Choice. His business, Lakeshore Potential, provides weed-cutting services for lakefront properties with equipment that relies on a modified rake and rope, not chemicals.

“When I was 8 years old I lived on a lake and I couldn’t fish and I couldn’t swim off the dock,” Sendle narrates in the pitch video shown to judges and audience members. “My dad gave me a garden rake and told me to go fix my problem.”

Equipped with a wildly expanded version of a rake – replete with blades – Sendle’s Lakeshore Potential is a DNR-endorsed operation that eliminates weeds  up to 2500 square feet area around docks. The potential in a state with 11,842 lakes is huge.

In a novel move for the contest, judges awarded two second-place. The second-place finishers, taking home $2500 each, were Sam Csizmadia of Csizmadia Lawn Care and Abdelrahman Elkenawy, Kaitlyn Gloege and Alex Shepherd of Hearing Glasses – a project to develop eyeglasses equipped with voice recognition and closed caption-like capabilities to provide text to spoken words.

Jared Klingenberg’s business, Downed Duck, won the $3000 award in the Agriculture/Food/Beverage prize. Other finalists were Steven Rencher, of Scritcher and Ajibola and Christina Asaolu of Kefeti.

The six contenders were selected in a process that began in November when applications opened and continued through early February. Judges selected the finalists, who had from March 3 to early April to prepare a full business plan and pitch presentation.

Advisor/mentors to the students throughout the process included Mark Bietz of Fun.com, April Femrite of Coldwell Banker and Sarah Richards of Jones Metal. Six judges then reviewed the plans and interviewed students.

When in March it became clear the event would need to go online, The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship helped students make the change from a tech standpoint, all the while trying not to add to any further stress to the young businesses.

“They were resilient and up for anything – true entrepreneurs,” said Yvonne Cariveau, director of the CIE. And the event, though online, was an unusual success.

“We were able to accomplish the event at a lower cost and had one of our largest Big Ideas ever.  It wasn’t quite the same, but it was fun and was hugely encouraging for these young entrepreneurs.”