COD Pitch Contest winner turns family health remedy into promising business
What began as a way to help keep her family healthy has become an exciting start-up business for College of DuPage student Ashley Spratt.
A wife and mom of two young daughters, the Carol Stream resident began using elderberry syrup as a natural household remedy to help strengthen her family's immune systems.
The benefits inspired her to begin making the syrup at home and selling it to family and friends.
This year, she became the owner of Spratt's All Naturals, with "Spratt's Elderberry Syrup" being the star product. The company's mission is to provide safe, healthy and quality products to support community wellness in the Chicago area.
Spratt recently won the 2018 COD Pitch Contest, sponsored by Innovation DuPage, E2 Emerging Entrepreneurs and the College's Entrepreneurship Club, after impressing an audience and panel of expert judges with a well-organized presentation of her business.
She plans to use the first prize of $2,000 to continue funding the testing of her products to ensure that they remain safe with a suitable shelf life.
During her pitch, Spratt emphasized the advantages of her Elderberry Syrup in comparison to commercial brands, such as its affordability, its inclusion of raw honey and the absence of added fillers, preservatives and sugars. Watch Spratt's winning pitch here.
While selling homeopathic products wasn't always part of the plan for Spratt, she has long had an entrepreneurial spirit.
"I have always dreamed of owning my own company and being able to share a passion with my family," she said.
Peter James, associate professor of Business and Entrepreneurship Club Advisor, said Spratt found a way to stand out from competitors during the contest.
"Her pitch was unique and the opportunity for success may have resonated with the judges and the audience," he said. "Notice that it wasn't something new. Instead, it was something that she improved upon."
The event was the college's second Pitch Contest and part of COD's celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Participants had five minutes to describe their ideas, and their presentations included information such as target audiences, supply and demand, and how the prize money would be used if won.
In addition to Spratt, Naperville North High School students Jonathan Arnold and John Young, both of Naperville, finished second and received $1,000 while COD student Jared Galler of Aurora finished third and received a $500 scholarship.
"The competition challenged participants to stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone and seize the moment in order to move one step closer to their dreams," James said. "This is the true definition of entrepreneurship."
Competing in the contest helped reassure Spratt that she is on the right track as a young business owner.
"It was honestly the confidence booster that I needed," she said. "Winning it is one of the best experiences I've had since furthering my education and my career."
Spratt's Elderberry Syrup can be ordered from the Spratt's All Naturals website. She has partnered with Entrée Kitchen in Carol Stream, where customers can pick up the syrup during convenient hours. She plans to offer a wider variety of products beginning in early 2019.
Spratt is pursuing an associate in applied science degree and a bachelor's degree through the 3+1 in Management program, a partnership between COD and Benedictine University. She also has taken advantage of the resources offered through the College's Business program.
"I initially attended college as a young 18-year-old and was not ready to take it seriously," she said. "Now that I am older and have a family, I realize the importance of education. I love what COD has to offer in the program and all of the resources for young entrepreneurs. I look forward to completing my business degree through the 3+1 program."
James said COD's Business program is successful because of its ability to evolve with the industry and offer a fresh perspective.
"The Business, Management and Marketing program is just a bit different than most disciplines as we really have to stay connected with how business is evolving from a customer, manager, leader and ownership perspective," he said. "While some underlying themes and concepts may remain the same, there is much evolution in how they manifest on a day-to-day basis in today's work environment."
For more information about the Business/Management/Marketing program, visit www.cod.edu/programs/business, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (630) 942-2140.