Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at DSU

After the annual Marketplace for Entrepreneurs event in January, Dickinson State University has proof its entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Not only did the university have half of the selected entrants for the Business Opportunity and Se...

After the annual Marketplace for Entrepreneurs event in January, Dickinson State University has proof its entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

Not only did the university have half of the selected entrants for the Business Opportunity and Self-Employment Search Competition, DSU students won five of the eight prizes.

"To me, it was natural to represent the university at the contest," said business professor Colleen Rodakowski. "We encouraged students in courses where business plans were being created to be a part of this contest, not only because of the cash prize, but because of the opportunities the students had."

Students enrolled in one of the entrepreneur courses offered last semester created a business plan in groups, which they later submitted to the B.O.S.S. Competition at Marketplace in Fargo.

"It's just a fabulous opportunity for learning for the students," Rodakowski said.


Toward the end of the semester, they presented to business leaders in Dickinson, before submitting for the contest.

"It was kind of new this year," Rodakowski said. "I did it in my class, and then (business professor Dr. Knude Swensen) did when preparing them for the competition. We thought it was good practice that they were in front of another group, other than presenting in class."

More than 25 college campuses in North Dakota and Minnesota were eligible to submit an application, and students were encouraged to work on the project as part of a class.

Renee Kipp, director of operations for Marketplace for Entrepreneurs, said originally 32 groups intended to submit a business plan, but 27 actually signed up. Dickinson State students represented 10 of the 20 groups that advanced to the oral round.

Half of those students placed and are bringing home prizes ranging from $2,000 to $250.

Two students from Bismarck State College took home the top prize of $3,000 for their feedlot business idea. DSU won second, had two third-place contestants and one each in fourth and fifth place.

Jessica Forster, Dickinson, and Kevin McElvaney, Scobey, Mont., took the runner-up prize for their Straight-Line Cab Service plan.

"We just felt like we needed a 24-hour taxi service in Dickinson, so we did a feasibility analysis," Forster said.


She said the results proved it would be difficult to be profitable, so the group worked on adding additional features, like an errand service and transportation for the university's many international students who didn't have access to a vehicle. Forster said the taxi cabs would also display advertisements to generate additional revenue.

Despite the services, McElvaney said if the business became a reality, they would make $20,000 per year.

He said it was a great experience and something he would recommend to other students. Neither of the two students said they were likely to make the service a reality.

"It's something that is feasible... but not as profitable as I would want to make," McElvaney said.

Forster said she may pursue a master's degree in marketing or advertising, but still considered the competition a good experience.

"If (the competition) leads to being an entrepreneur, I know that I have the resources and skills from what the university has offered me to work on that," Forster said.

The two students who took home third place and $750, however, are considering starting a real venture based upon their project.

Patrick Emmons and Rusty Knuths, both from Montana and ranching backgrounds, created the Double Deck Cattle Guard.


Knuths said the product is a cattle guard with two levels, so the bottom level can rise to create a flat surface when necessary. Emmons said growing up on a ranch, he saw kids get into bike accidents on the guards.

"We thought it would be simple, easy and useful," Emmons said.

Although they've created a model of their product and have a drawing, Knuths said they would have to hire a contractor to have an actual prototype.

"We've had a bit of interest in it," Knuths said. "We're both considering it (marketing the product) a lot stronger than when we first came up with it," Knuths said.

Students Seth Murphy, Josi Price and Lindsey Berger also placed third with a business plan for a product called Smooth "Ridin." The product they outlined is a pad to put in livestock trailers to prevent damage to animals' legs and hooves.

Michelle Mooer was awarded $500 and fourth place for her business plan called eFit, which is a personal digital assistant for avid exercisers that tracks caloric intake and offers short training videos.

Amber Fauth and Stephanie Holder received $250 and fifth place for their product idea FootNotes. FootNotes are rubber boots that have unique replaceable soles so kids can use them as an outdoor toy by stamping different symbols in snow.

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