Category: Entrepreneurship

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!

Students Tackle Silicon Valley over Spring Break

The School of Business and Economics led a student group to Silicon Valley for an Alternative Spring Break trip.

Alternative Spring Break trips are all the rage at Michigan Tech!  These trips enable students an affordable way to get away from Houghton and have some fun over Spring Break.  The School of Business and Economics offers a students the opportunity to tour the high tech companies of California’s Silicon Valley.

“Going on the Silicon Valley trip was a great way to spend break because I got to meet a lot of cool and inspirational people, while touring top-notch technology companies,” says scientific and technical communications major Armando Flores. The School of Business and Economics organized this trip to give students a backstage pass to tech giants like Google, Autodesk, Cisco and Brocade Communications. The visits came with plentiful opportunities to network, learn about business strategies and explore a whole new world of career options.

Aside from connecting with industry leaders, the students got to experience a culture that differs from what they are accustomed to. “I caught a glimpse of what life is like in California. It really is a melting pot of people, culture and innovation,” Flores says.

The trip wasn’t strictly business, however. The students also had time for fun, creating memories that will last a lifetime. “The most memorable experiences for me were visiting The Gallery at Autodesk, riding a G-Bike at Google and then visiting the Hacker Dojo,” says Flores. “Swimming in the ocean was pretty cool too.”

These thrilling experiences may have made returning to classes a challenge, but they also gave Flores something to strive for. “The trip put everything into perspective and motivated me to keep working hard. One way or another, I will go back,” he says firmly.

Click here to read the full Tech Today article that describes other Alternative Spring Break opportunities Michigan Tech students engaged in this year.

Tech Students win $20,500 at New Venture Competition

Last weekend Michigan Tech and Central Michigan University students competed for a total of $45,000 in this year's New Venture Competition.

Two teams of Michigan Tech students won more than $20,000 in the annual New Venture Competition held at Central Michigan University recently.

Northern Aquaponics won $10,000 in the Best Technology category, and Upland Nanotech won $10,000 for Highest Growth Potential and $500 for second-place pitch.

“We had five strong teams competing in a field of 2Y,” said School of Business and Economics Dean Gene Klippel. “All the teams benefited greatly from the experience of presenting their ideas and receiving valuable feedback from the outstanding panel of judges who participated.”

First place and $30,000 went to Solar Cycle Lights LLC, a student team from Central Michigan.

Upland Nanotech was founded by Thomas Daunais, an electrical engineering major, whose company developed a rapid-sensing technology used for food pathogen detection and drug-level concentration that has the ability to yield results within 20 minutes.

“The first thing we’re going to do is going to take the winnings and leverage another $55,000 out of it,” he said. “We’ll use the $65,000 we’ll have to make an E. coli sensor prototype.”

He said the competition, attended by many business and industry professionals, helped his group network and convince others to believe in their idea.

“We got feedback from the judges that we have an interesting concept, a solid business plan and an overall very intriguing technology,” Daunais said.

Northern Aquaponics, specializing in growing plants and raising fish in indoor environments, won the $10,000 award for Best Technology.

“I think we have done a lot of work to pinpoint our target market and refine our business model to make it more viable,” said Josh Krugh, an economics major and the company’s cofounder. He also thought the judges at Central gave good feedback, not just to his team, but to all of the teams.

“There were so many people there willing and able to help all of us,” Krugh said. “I can’t tell you how many people stopped me throughout the day to give us suggestions and talk about our business. It was definitely a rare opportunity to be in a room full of so many successful businessmen and women.”

He said Northern Aquaponics will use their prize money to build partnerships and company business models.

Twenty-seven teams from Central Michigan and Michigan Tech competed in the daylong event for awards ranging from $500 to $30,000. Panels of 60 judges representing business leaders and entrepreneurs from throughout Michigan and the region evaluated the team presentations based on several factors, including the quality of the idea, strength of the management team and the business plan.

Upland Nanotech and Northern Aquaponics also won second and third place, respectively, at the Fourth Annual Bob Mark Memorial Elevator Pitch Competition on the Michigan Tech campus in November 2012.

This story was originally written by by Dennis Walikainen, University Marketing Communications senior editor, and published in Tech Today.