Category: Entrepreneurship

Experience Silicon Valley over Spring Break!

Sign-up by December 5th for the 2014 Silicon Valley Experience!

The Experience of a Lifetime

Each spring 15 students travel from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, to the world hub of start-ups and entrepreneurs- Silicon Valley. This eye-opening experience focuses on immersing students in real companies, with real players, and the current challenges they face.

This year, you can to go Silicon Valley during Spring Break (March 8-14). Visits with entrepreneurs, inventors, managers and companies including Brocade, Cisco, and Google will provide you with a first-hand understanding of technology built enterprises that are revolutionizing global business.

Take Advantage of This Opportunity

Brocade is once again sponsoring the trip bringing the cost to $300 per person including airfare, hotel accommodations with breakfast each morning and transportation throughout the duration of the trip.

This trip is open to all Michigan Tech students. Please pass the information along. Student participation is based on a two minute interview on “Why you want to work and live on Silicon Valley.” If you are interested in participating, please email Karen Foltz at You will be assigned interview time starting at 4:00 pm on December 5, 2013.

Click here to view the PDF Brochure:  SiliconValley2014

Winning Pitch Cleans up at Competition

Entrepreneurship Club hosts another successful Elevator Pitch Competition.

Today’s university students are reminded to be careful about what they put up on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Sometimes they forget, and that’s a job for Clean It Up, the winning entry in the fifth annual Bob Mark Elevator Pitch Competition held Thursday night on the campus of Michigan Technological University.

The late business professor Bob Mark created the competition so students could polish their 90-second, new business pitches, emulating the length of an elevator ride.

The brainchild of accounting major Nikoli Wiens, assisted by chemical engineering major Zach Eckert, Clean It Up promises to clean up content and profiles on the Internet, even beyond the cleansing that Facebook and Twitter claim to do upon request.

“Companies will still dig deeper and get the info,” said Wiens. “We know it’s important to remove certain content, and we would do it cheaper than other services.” The team claimed there was more than $1 million in revenue possible with their $25 fee; such is the need for their service.

Their motto? “Don’t let one crazy weekend ruin your life forever.” They won $1,000 for their efforts.

Second place and $500 went to a device to which university students could also relate. FairShare promised a simple plug-in to calculate individual electric power usage, an important consideration for students sharing living spaces and expenses.

FairShare was created by an elevator-pitch veteran, Abhilash Kantamneni, who won last year’s competition with an Indian dating service.

“This can help college students save money,” Kantamneni said. “It would only cost $25, so most can afford it.” Kantamneni is a PhD student in computer science.

The bronze medal and Audience Favorite Award went to the ingenious Flashion, an app for your cellphone that can take a photo of a pair of shoes, for example, and instantly find their source, price, and more.

This mobile app would be free, according to creators Armando Flores, majoring in communication, culture, and media, and Allison Strome, a management major. They credited teammate and finance major Natalia Lebedeva for their inspiration, with whom they will share $250.

“She had the idea and we just built on it,” Flores said. “We might try to get funding on Kickstarter [the online funding site] to form an LLC.

Safety Straw targeted chemicals added surreptitiously to people’s drinks. Green Receipts sought to eliminate paper receipts at businesses. And more student-friendly businesses included Experience University, to help choose the right courses and teachers; and Food Now, to get groceries and fast food delivered to their rooms when they are in mid-cram for that final exam.

Michigan Tech entrepreneurs can also set their sights on the New Venture Competition, held at Central Michigan University in March and providing $65,000 in prize money.

Bob Mark Elevator Pitch Competition

All Majors invited to Elevator Pitch Competition!

What is an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a short speech that outlines a business idea.

Come Pitch your idea for a chance to win $1000 in 90 seconds!

When: Thursday, November 7th at 6:00 pm

Where: Fisher Hall, Room 135

Why: $1000 First Place Prize…$500 Second Place Prize…$250 Third Place Prize…$200 Audience Favorite

Even if you’re not interested in competing, please join us for what is sure to be a fun and entertaining event! We look forward to see you in the audience!

Please contact Nikoli Wiens with any questions at

Two New Brew Crews


Perhaps inspired by our own Keweenaw Brewing Company (Dick Gray ’82) and Schmoz Brewery in Grand Rapids (Chas Thompson ’91), a couple of husband-wife alumni teams are bringing craft brewing to two different locales: Appleton, Wisconsin, and Zeeland, Michigan.

We caught up with them as they branch out in new careers and take a shot as business people.

Mairi (Smith-Risk) Fogle ’09 and Ben Fogle ’08 are the Appleton brewers, Ben is a brewer and production manager, and Mairi is the marketing director.

“Between the two of us, we have taken on a large share of the responsibilities, but there are many other people involved as well at varying levels of ownership,” Mairi says. “Ben’s dad (Jeff) is the president of the organization and Ben’s stepmom (Leah) is the chef.”

Other alumni are involved: Carl Pierce ’08 is also a brewer/owner and Evan Zaborski ’10 is an owner and part of the construction crew.

“We are building the twenty-barrel brew system, kitchen, and bar ourselves in what used to be an auto parts shop on College Avenue in Appleton,” Mairi says. “We are optimistic that we can open this summer, and we we will have a full bar in addition to the beer, but our primary focus will be on our beer.”

She said her menu will be a beer-centric, with all food will having beer in it or will go well with beer.

“We are very focused on educating our customers on craft beer and being transparent in everything we do,” Mairi said. “We will have the brew system visible through floor to ceiling windows, and the distribution line and kitchen will be visible through large windows that we’ve pulled out and restored during the renovations.”

They’ve focused on sustainability, too. They’ve re-used much of the wood torn out of the building for tables and benches, recycled steel for our equipment, and using the spent grain for bread and will be giving the rest to local farmers as feed for their animals. They are on Facebook.

Tripel RootAcross Lake Michigan in Zeeland (southwest of Grand Rapids), Nate ’05 and Laura ’05 Gentry are converting a 115-year-old building downtown into a restaurant and brewpub called Tripel Root (

Zeeland might be considered a unique place to start, since they just reversed their alcohol sale ban in 2006.

But, times have changed, and accenting their family-friendly focus, Tripel Root will be open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Tripel Root will also offer artisan stone breads made with spent grains left over from the brewing process.  It will serve its own beer along with wine and “guest taps” from other microbreweries.

Nate’s interest in brewing started early.

“He was home brewing while we were at Tech,” Laura says. “We lived in one of the subdivisions up the hill from Shopko. Nate also was a bartender at The Library for a few years.”

Tripel Root aims to bring more people to the downtown area. “We love the Zeeland community and look forward to working with the city and local businesses and organizations,” she said. The last use for the building was a bank, and the drive-through will be replaced with a door and outside seating area.

They have been working hard.

“After a weekend of working on demolition, we filled our first 20 yard dumpster and have made progress on taking down the inside walls,” she says.

They are also working on fundraising.

“If anyone is interested in an opportunity to be a part of our Founding Members Mug Club, contact us at”

Are there any other alumni brewers out there?

This story was originally published in the TechAlum Newsletter.

Two Bows seeks funds for summer apparel line!

Two Bows-- the apparel line with the outdoorsy woman in mind-- is seeking funding for their summer line samples!

Three years ago Management major Jessica Tompkins started her own company Two Bows LLC .  Now a senior in the School of Business and Economics, Jessica needs our support!

Two Bows has been accepted by Kickstarter – an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects– to raise funds for their Spring/Summer apparel line. She encourages everyone to follow the project, choose a reward, and pass along the word.  Two Bows only has 30 days to reach their goal of $5,000.  This money would then allow them to move forward taking the next big step to develop their company.

Jessica credits the School of Business and Economics and her classes for her growing success. Day by day she uses skills and knowledge she has gained at Michigan Tech while continuing to build the company’s foundation. Two Bows has previously been funded from several resources including: business competitions, Crowdbackers crowdfunding, and non-monetary awards. These sources, combined with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) have enabled her to market the company at a low cost.

However, in an effort to grow Two Bows, they are searching for additional funding sources to add a Spring/Summer line. This new line will supplement the products currently being sold for Fall and Winter. Jessica hopes the new line will allow Outdoorsy girls, like her, to be comfortable and look great while enjoying the hobbies they love!

By meeting their $5000 goal, Two Bows will have enough funding to create their new line, have professional photos taken, and update their website.  They only have 30 days to raise the money, and get their backers the rewards they earn in return for their funding! The rewards stack, so the more you back, the more you receive. Every donation helps!

Two Bows needs all the support it can get to reach their goal!  Let’s help out one of our own, click here to read more and make a donation!