Category: Student Spotlight

Student Entrepreneur Seeks Endorsements

Jess Tompkins pitches her idea in the New Venture Competition, a joint business plan competition between Central Michigan and Michigan Technological University held in the spring of 2012.

Jessica Tompkins, a fifth-year student in business management, needs the help of the campus community.

Tompkins is competing for a $250,000 grant for her start-up company, Two Bows LLC, and has only three days to collect 250 votes to be considered for the award.

All you have to do to help is:

  • Go to Mission Small Business
  • Click “Log in and Support” and log in using Facebook.
  • Type “Two Bows” in the search and click “Vote.”

You can also watch this 45-second YouTube video to show you the above steps: How to Vote.

This community outreach is part of CHASE’s program, “Mission: Small Business.” It offers 12 grants in the amount of $250,000 to help small businesses grow. The deadline for weighing in is Saturday, June 30.

Tompkins founded Two Bows, which offers an apparel line with the outdoorsy woman in mind. “For far too long,” she says, “women have worn men’s hunting and fishing apparel because they had nothing else. Now they are able to ‘roll with the boys’ and not have to look like one.”

The endeavor has been fruitful; Two Bows recently received the Student Startup of the Year Award from the MTEC SmartZone.

Tompkins is developing a sewing company in the area, so that garments can be produced not only in America but in Michigan and help create jobs in the area.

Two Bows has raised a small amount of capital on crowdbackers.com and is near completion on a website through ZT Web Development.

Originally published in Tech Today.

More from Jess and Two Bows…

Michigan Tech Students Compete for $60,000

2011 Elevator Pitch Competition

New Entrepreneur Support Center Includes Space for Tech Students

A Growing Concern

Amber Campbell sells hard-to-find flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Amber Campbell sells hard-to-find flowers, herbs and vegetables.

When daylight begins to last well into evening, and Houghton-Hancock area residents get in gardening mode, there’s not a lot of choice at the local discount stores: petunias, impatiens, marigolds, geraniums. Or geraniums, marigolds, impatiens and petunias.

But what if you want to grow campanula, with its delicate, bell-shaped lavendar blooms?  Or morning glories to attract butterflies?  Fennel and cilantro and sweet banana peppers to spice up your summer cooking?

When Amber Campbell, an MBA student at Michigan Technological University and avid gardener, thought about that, she saw a business opportunity. With the help of Michigan Tech’s Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation (MTEC) SmartZone’s Entrepreneur Support Center, she has turned she has turned a bright idea into a going, growing business: G&A Farmer’s Market and Garden Center on Sharon Avenue in Houghton.

She opened in May in a small plastic greenhouse filled with brilliantly colored bedding plants, feathery herbs and hardy vegetables. Later in the growing season, she plans to add a fruit and vegetable stand, selling fresh, local berries, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and Asian vegetables such as garlic chives and bok choy.

In China, where Campbell grew up, she and her family grew and ate their own fruits and vegetables. “I remember how fresh and good they were,” she says.  “I am bringing my own good memories to life here.”

Campbell, who is also an adjunct instructor at Michigan Tech and Finlandia University, started with little more than an idea. “I like fresh produce and healthy food,” she says. “And I have always liked growing things.”

When Jonathan Leinonen, a SmartZone executive who teaches entrepreneurship and business development at Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics, led a seminar about the SmartZone’s Entrepreneur Support Center, Campbell immediately sought his help. “I have an idea, but I don’t know how to start,” she told him.

Leinonen knew exactly how to start. “He put me in touch with a lawyer who helped me fill out forms,” she says. “Forms and more forms and then more forms.”

Once the attorney had helped Campbell establish the fledgling garden center as an LLC (limited liability corporation), the simplest form of incorporation, another Entrepreneur Support Center counselor entered the picture.  John Diebel, assistant director of technology commercialization for Michigan Tech’s Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, counsels would-be entrepreneurs about intellectual property protection. Since Campbell’s business is not high-tech and does not involve patents or licenses, he helped her with market research.

“He helped me find out if there was a demand for more variety in plants and for fresher, natural, healthier produce,” Campbell says.  “And there is a great demand for more variety.”

Developing a workable business plan was another bump in the road. With counsel from Leinonen, Diebel and Jim Beauchamp from the SBTDC office in Escanaba, Campbell crafted a plan so promising that, at the urging of Travis Beaulieu—an undergraduate entrepreneur who won the 2011 Bob Mark Memorial Elevator Pitch Competition—she entered the statewide New Venture Competition. Jim Baker, director of Tech’s Office of Innovation and Industry Engagement; Paul Nelson, associate professor in the School of Business and Economics; Phil Musser, head of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, and Leinonen helped Campbell and her team partner, Jeffrey Squires—who just graduated in mechanical engineering—polish their plans. They made it to the second round of the competition, a partnership between Michigan Tech and Central Michigan University.

Campbell has a large garden at her home in Houghton. She also has a plot in the community garden on Pewabic Street. Still, she was surprised when she started to try to prepare her Garden Center property at 400 W. Sharon Avenue for planting. “Rocks!” she exclaims. “So many rocks, and so big.”

Campbell credits graduate students Fahimeh Baziari and Alex Wohlgemuth from Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program with volunteering to help fence her site, and Tech master gardener Lynn Watson, who “gave me lots of useful advice on gardening.”

Still working on her MBA and teaching at two universities, Campbell quickly learned how demanding launching a new business can be.  “I am a little overwhelmed by the demands for time and efforts,” she says, “no matter how small or how well-prepared you are. Every day I start with a screaming in my heart—‘Help!’”

But Campbell is optimistic about her garden center’s future. “We offer greater variety, lower prices and better quality,” she says. “I believe that’s what people want.” She’s already thinking about the time when she can replace her flimsy greenhouse and roadside stand with a building where she can sell fresh, natural produce year round.

By Jennifer Donovan, originally posted in Michigan Tech News.

Gregory chooses Michigan Tech

Theresa Peterson/The Daily News Photo Kingsford’s Jeff Gregory will play basketball at Michigan Tech University.

KINGSFORD – Kingsford High School standout Jeff Gregory set a goal of playing college basketball.

That place will be Michigan Tech University in Houghton.

“Jeff told me that he really wanted to play ball somewhere,” Flivver coach Dan Olkkonen said. “He was not really recruited hard by any Division II schools, so I told him that he had to be able to sell himself to those programs.”

Gregory, a two-time Great Northern Conference Player of the Year, was able to work out for Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State coaches.

“Both coaches had very good things to say about him,” Olkkonen said. “Coach (Kevin) Luke was impressed with the way he handled himself, and he looks for Jeff to develop within a few years.”

Gregory will join the Huskies as a non-scholarship player.

“I told Jeff that if he is passionate about playing basketball, then he has to accept the position he is in and work on what the coaches feel he needs to do to be able to contribute in a few years,” Olkkonen said. “Coach Luke said he is a Tech-type-kid, and that is a big compliment coming from a coach as well respected as Kevin Luke.”

The 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals this past season. The All-U.P. “Dream Team” pick helped the Flivvers to their first Great Northern Conference title since 1999.

“There’s a great tradition at Michigan Tech that I want to be a part of,” said Gregory, who will major in business finance.

Gregory was a three-year starter for the Flivvers.

“I am very proud of him and I wish him well at Tech,” Olkkonen said.

Michigan Tech, 16-12 in 2012, won the GLIAC North Division title for the first time since 2003.

This article was originally published on May 29, 2012 by the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Research Presentation on Inter-Sourcing

Dr. Mari Buche speaks during panel discussion.

Associate Professor of Management Information Systems Mari W. Buche and graduate student Gareth Johnson (ME/MBA) traveled to Green Bay, Wis., to attend the Midwest Association for Information Systems (MAIS) annual conference May 18-19. They presented “Inter-sourcing: Partnerships Between Businesses, Universities and Student Interns.” Buche, treasurer of MWAIS, also participated in a panel discussion on the future of the Midwest AIS organization and chaired a session on organizational issues relating to information systems.

Associate Professor of Management Information Systems Mari Buche and Gareth Johnson

Economics Graduate Accepted into top 100 Law School

Coleman Segal to attend McGeorge School of Law.

The School of Business and Economics wants to congratulate Coleman Segal for his acceptance into the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. We’re so proud!

Despite being accepted to UC Berkeley out of high school, Segal chose to pursue his undergraduate degree at Michigan Tech.  After visiting his Aunt and Uncle in the Houghton as a child, he has always loved the area. The wild, beautiful surroundings, the opportunity to participate in the vibrant folk music scene, and the impressive academic reputation were all factors in his decision to come to Tech.

After researching universities, he learned of the Economics program at Michigan Tech.  Economics interested Segal in high school because it can be applied to so many different aspects of life.  Segal said, “The study of economics is in large part an effort to understand the mechanics of a functioning society, and so it relates to many different fields. It also provides a good background for law school, which I have planned to attend since high school.” 

Segal is a California native and will soon return to his home state to pursue his law degree from one of the top 100 Law Schools in the nation.   Applying and being accepted to five law schools –Marquette University in Milwaukee, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, and Albany Law School– Segal selected the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and will begin classes next fall. In addition to their impressive reputation, Segal said he chose McGeorge School of Law based on their location in Sacramento, California.  He finds the area interesting as a center of government, with multiple courthouses at different levels in the immediate area. 

Crediting his experiences with extracurricular activities such as the iOMe Challenge and the Pavlis Institute for advancing his goals of attending law school, Segal noted that Michigan Tech prepared him well for continuing his education.  Mastering skills such as writing and researching papers, in many different subjects, have been instrumental for the pursuit of his law degree.