Earphone storage device idea wins Judson business pitch contest
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A plastic storage device preventing earphones from getting tangled is the business concept that won over judges at Judson University's fourth "Shark Tank" competition Thursday in Elgin.
Five finalists competed for nearly $2,000 in prizes before an audience of more than 200 in Herrick Chapel.
Seniors Creighton North and Ryan Faulkner won the $1,000 first-place prize and the $100 Fan Favorite prize for their "Earbuddi" idea.
One side of the storage compartment attaches to a cellphone with an opening for an adapter to plug in earphones. Newer smartphones don't come with an earphone port. When the lid is closed, earphone cords can be wrapped around it for easy storage.
"It's small enough that it won't be annoying in your pocket," said North, 21, of Ferrisburg, Vermont. "It's like an oval core that you wrap the headphones around so it holds them in place."
North and Faulkner, both architecture majors, came up with the idea after spending a lot of time listening to music using tangled earphones.
The duo saw potential with the idea and it took two weeks to come up with the design.
"We've been working hard on this for half a semester, and it feels great to have that come to fruition," said Faulkner, 21, of Montrose, Pennsylvania.
"We got a lot of positive feedback from the judges. After the event we had someone approach us about a potential investment. We have to do more research about patenting. The competition side of it was fun and the reward was great ... the best part was learning so much."
North estimated $15,000 is needed to produce a mold and manufacture 50,000 units.
"We would love to look at outsourcing our product to plastic molders," North said, adding there are several companies in Elgin making plastic products. "Working with someone local would be huge. The marketing and business side is not something we know a lot about, but the design aspect, making our prototype was something we enjoyed."
Other winners were junior Sarah Kay of Barrington Hills for her boutique tea shop idea, The Tea Leafe, which took the $500 second-place prize. Junior Jean-Marc Plantin of Brockton, Massachusetts, was third and earned $250 for his "Rent-N-Roll" leasing app.
Judges were architecture student John Ashworth, who won last year for his "Custom Cubes" pitch; Carol Gieske, president and CEO of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce; Sergio Rodriguez, vice president of information technology and marketing for KCT Credit Union; Ray Stachowiak, a venture capitalist and founder and former CEO of Shared Imaging; and Lisa Waller, vice president and co-owner of BDG International, Inc.
"It is our hope all students see the potential of turning their passion into possibility," said Michelle Kilbourne, traditional business program chair, who co-chaired the competition with business professor Joyce Shotick.