Custom ice cubes win Judson's 'Shark Tank' business pitch contest

An idea for creating customizable ice cubes won first place in Judson University's third "Shark Tank" entrepreneurial pitch competition this week.

Five finalists who were the top vote-getters out of a field of 11 student teams pitched their innovative business, product and service concepts to a panel of six judges and hundreds of audience members Thursday night at the Thompson Fine Arts Center on Judson's Elgin campus.

Sophomore John Ashworth's "Custom Cubes" won the $1,000 grand prize.

Ashworth, 20, who is from the Netherlands and 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 own image, logos or monograms and place direct orders for $1 per cube.

Ashworth would take an image or set of images and construct a 3-D model, and make molds with the 3-D printers on the Judson campus. The result would be logo-stamped ice cubes, chocolates or other edibles.

"I've been really pushing entrepreneurship and innovative ideas a long, long time," Ashworth said.

Ashworth said people he surveyed said they would love to have 3-D cookie cutters for Christmas or their own chocolate molds for Valentine's Day.

Michelle Kilbourne, Judson business programs chairwoman, called Ashworth "a testament to what embodies entrepreneurship.

"He was in the competition last year but did not place," she said. "After considering the feedback on many levels, he was able to develop a simple concept and easily convey it. I haven't met an entrepreneur yet who hasn't failed before succeeding. The real challenge, and what we hope to teach with this process, is how to both fail and succeed."

Freshman Diego Ramirez and Norman Trainor, both majoring in management, won the $500 second-place prize for their "CulTour App" idea, and also the $100 Fan Favorite prize. The app helps people increase their knowledge of cultural differences.

Third-place winners were Alan Osinski, Bryan Cherry, Elijah Bobell and Andrew Kennedy for their "Dow Drinks" concept for a bar where prices fluctuate based on the popularity of the beverage. They earned $250.

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

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 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 was among the judges for this week's competition.

John Ashworth won the $1,000 first-place prize in Judson University's third "Shark Tank" competition Thursday for his customizable ice cubes idea. Courtesy of Judson University
Diego Ramirez, left, and Norman Trainor won the second-place prize of $500 and Fan Favorite honors in Judson University's third "Shark Tank" competition Thursday. Their idea is creating an app that helps learn about cultural differences. Courtesy of Judson University
The student quartet Alan Osinski, Bryan Cherry, Elijah Bobell and Andrew Kennedy placed third winning $250 in Judson University's third "Shark Tank" competition Thursday. Their "Dow Drinks" idea is for a bar where prices fluctuate based on the popularity of the beverage. Courtesy of Judson University
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