Judson senior's package protector idea wins 'Shark Tank' contest

  • Judson University senior Tom Fenske of Crystal Lake won the $1,000 first-place prize and the $100 Fan Favorite prize for his Package Protector idea in the fifth Judson "Shark Tank" event.

    Judson University senior Tom Fenske of Crystal Lake won the $1,000 first-place prize and the $100 Fan Favorite prize for his Package Protector idea in the fifth Judson "Shark Tank" event. Courtesy of Judson University

  • "Shark Tank" judge Dan Marquardt, co-owner of Marquardt Buick-GMC in Barrington, questions student entrepreneurs during Judson University's fifth business pitch contest. More than 200 students and guests attended the event held last Thursday in Elgin.

    "Shark Tank" judge Dan Marquardt, co-owner of Marquardt Buick-GMC in Barrington, questions student entrepreneurs during Judson University's fifth business pitch contest. More than 200 students and guests attended the event held last Thursday in Elgin. Courtesy of Judson University

 
 

A device to receive packages disguised as outdoor furniture to safeguard them from being stolen was the winning idea in Judson University's fifth "Shark Tank" contest.

Judson senior Tom Fenske of Crystal Lake won the $1,000 first-place prize and the $100 Fan Favorite prize for his Package Protector invention.

More than 200 students and guests attended the two-hour event last Thursday at the Elgin university. Five budding student entrepreneur groups pitched their business or product ideas to a panel of expert judges representing various business industries.

Winners included senior Nathanael DeLong of Mendota, awarded the $500 second-place prize for his MicroPHONE app for people to speak or sing into their phone and have the sound come out via Bluetooth speakers. Freshmen Joey Pepper and Andrew Lewis, both of Elgin, took third-place honors and $250 for their Missionary Sports program to train children in foreign countries to play sports and learn about American culture.

"I am always amazed at what the students pull together for the competition itself," said Michelle Kilbourne, chairwoman of traditional business programs. "I tell my students often that people will buy you before they buy your ideas. I hope the students learn how to develop a personal and professional brand and engage it during this competition.

"Research shows that creativity diminishes continually as an individual progresses through the traditional school system. I hope the other lesson the students learn is that it is OK to dream a little and be creative."

Judges were: Kevin Krak, president and CEO of Gallant Building Solutions of Crystal Lake; Dan Marquardt, co-owner of Marquardt Buick-GMC in Barrington and a Chicago Automobile Trade Association board member; Jennifer Kendzior, recruiter at Thrivent Financial, this year's sponsor of contest prizes; and Patricia Szpekowski, president of PR Strategies & Communication at PmS Advertising in Elgin.

Judson's competition is inspired by ABC Network's popular entrepreneurial-themed reality show of the same name, "Shark Tank."

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