Judson students prepare for 'Shark Tank' contest

Customizable ice cubes, a cash gas pump, and a bar where drink prices fluctuate based on their popularity are among the business ideas vying for cash prizes at Judson University's third "Shark Tank" entrepreneurial pitch competition Nov. 17.

It begins at 7 p.m. in the Thulin Performance Hall of the Thompson Fine Arts Center at the Elgin campus, 1151 N. State St. Winners collectively receive nearly $2,000 in prize money.

Inspired by ABC's popular reality business pitch series, "Shark Tank," Judson's event encourages young entrepreneurs with startup ideas to pitch them in three minutes or less.

Eleven students presented their business concepts for this fall's competition. The top five vote-getters selected last week by faculty, staff members and students progress to the "Shark Tank" finale where their pitches will be judged by six local entrepreneurs.

Finalists are: Eddy Kalinda for "Annual Cultural Festival"; Diego and Normal Trainor Valencia for "App-Culture"; Alan Osinski, Bryan Cherry, Elijah Bobell, and Andrew Kennedy for "Beverage Market"; Mark Winston for "Cash Receiving Gas Pump"; and John Ashworth for "Cutting Edge Cookery."

The "Beverage Market" team's concept is to open a bar in Chicago targeting young professionals and serving drinks from around the world by the ounce. Prices would be determined by customer demand.

"It will all be based on an algorithm," said Kennedy, 21 a junior majoring in biochemistry. "Every five minutes that an ounce of Heineken is not bought, it will go down 5 cents. If there's a demand for it, the prices go up."

Winston's idea would allow customers to pay at the gas pump with either cash or a credit/debit card and get change or cash back like an ATM. Since some gas stations charge fees for credit/debit transactions, it's cheaper to use cash instead, said the 21-year-old sophomore majoring in exercise sports science.

"Not everybody wants to use their credit/debit card all the time," he said. "If you have cash, you can control the spending."

Ashworth, 20, a sophomore majoring in architecture, said his idea is to 3-D print embossed ice cube trays with custom logos provided by customers. He 3-D printed a prototype with Judson's logo, which he hopes to sell to the university for use during sponsor events. His goal is to launch a website where customers could upload their logos and place direct orders for $1 per cube, he said.

The "Shark Tank" grand prize is $1,000, with $500 and $250 prizes for second and third place, and a $100 prize for the fan favorite.

"An important business skill to learn is how to take a vision and communicate in such a way that others will commit time, energy or resources to it," said Michelle Kilbourne, Judson business programs chairwoman. "This entrepreneurial/pitch competition allows students to practice that specific skill set."

Last year's first-place winners were students Ethan Adams and Zachary Conover for their software application, Tag. me, to help small businesses assess their inventory. Adams and Conover also were dubbed the fan favorite.

Conover now is a senior at Judson. Adams, a 2015 Judson graduate, works as coordinator of startups for Chicago-based Future Founders, a national nonprofit dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial skills in college students. He has launched and operated a number of entrepreneurial ventures, including co-founding and managing an online retail store out of his college dorm room and serving as a marketing consultant and freelance blogger. He will return to Judson as one of the judges for next week's competition.

The first 100 audience members for the Nov. 17 event will receive copies of Steve Case's book, "The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future," donated by Goodcity, an organization dedicated to developing social entrepreneurs in Chicago for more than 30 years.

Judson's Shark Tank competition is run by the student group, CREATE. Visit

  Judson University students, from left, Andrew Kennedy, Alan Osinski, Elijah Bobell and Bryan Cherry explain their "Beverage Market" concept during an entrepreneurial open forum last week. The team's concept for a bar targeting young professionals where prices would be determined by customer demand is among the finalists for Judson's "Shark Tank" business pitch contest Nov. 17. MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY/
  Judson University student Mark Winston explains his idea for a cash receiving gas pump during an entrepreneurial open forum last week. He is among five finalists for Judson's "Shark Tank" business pitch contest Nov. 17. MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY/
  Judson University student John Ashworth, left, has developed an idea for custom ice cubes, which he hopes will earn him one of the cash prizes at Judson's "Shark Tank" business pitch contest next week. MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY/
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