Entrepreneurial Rams across CSU get a business-boost

Venture RAMS: Business Showcase
CSU students, faculty, staff and business leaders stand together at the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase.

With business ideas ranging from sustainable building solutions to children’s books for youth with disabilities, entrepreneurial CSU undergraduate and graduate students came together for the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase to make the case for why their business ideas were worthy of investment.

Hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship, the Showcase offered a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration, welcoming students from all backgrounds to experience the entrepreneurial process.

“We believe in the power of business to create a better world.” said Scott Shrake, director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship. “As educators we can serve a foundational role by enabling the next generation of impact-driven entrepreneurs.”

⬇️ Q&A with student participants ⬇️

Chimgee Nergui – who grew up living a nomadic lifestyle in the Mongolian countryside – pitched her team’s business idea, Mongolia Eco Adventures, with the goal of offering cultural immersion travel services to students. Nergui and her teammate earned the Women-Founded Award, and $750, for the team’s strong concept.

Students talk a business competition
The College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship hosts the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase Competition.

“[Entrepreneurship] is a very learnable skill and concept if you have a passion for something meaningful,” said Nergui, a tourism management graduate student in Warner College of Natural Resources. “It was really game changing moment for our team – so motivated to pursue our business idea further!”

Lauren Gross, a sophomore Business student, took home the first place prize of $3,000 for her pitch promoting FOCO Dough, a student-run company making soft-serve cookie dough.

But her favorite moment from the Showcase wasn’t hearing her team’s name called. It was, “interacting with all the other amazing students, hearing their ideas, and why they are so passionate about entrepreneurship,” she said.

Winning the showcase is giving her and her business new opportunities to explore, like vending in Old Town and giving their cookie dough cart a refresh for next football season.

“Anyone with an idea can create their own business and it is a very rewarding, hands-on experience that opens you up to all kinds of different people, ideas, and connections,” Gross said.

Rachel Isaman, Assistant Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, was heartened this year to see so many female entrepreneurs involved in programming.

“As a woman entrepreneur, it’s so exciting to see more young women interested in the field of entrepreneurship! Women bring such unique insights, value and diverse perspectives to the equation.”

Other teams awarded:

2nd place, $1,500: Strong Mama, made up of MBA students from the College of Business, pitching their business offering a variety of prenatal and postnatal fitness programs.

3rd place, $750: Bamboo Stories, an interdisciplinary team with students from the College of Natural Sciences and College of Business, pitching personalized children’s books representing and catering to children with disabilities and special needs.

Impact award, $500: The Cyan Project, connecting suppliers of low- and no-carbon building materials to developers in emerging urban environments. 

Student Q&A

FOCO Dough business pitch
Lauren Gross, a sophomore business major, pitches her company, FOCO Dough, during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Lauren Gross, FOCO Dough

  • FOCO Dough: Safe to eat, egg-free cookie dough.
  • College of Business: Sophomore
  • Major: Business Administration, Marketing Concentration
  • Minor: Sports Management

What was your favorite part about the Venture Rams Business Showcase?

“My favorite part of the showcase was interacting with all the other amazing students, hearing their ideas and why they are so passionate about entrepreneurship.”

Do you plan to continue working on FOCO Dough?

“Yes, winning the showcase has given me and my business many new avenues to explore. We need to renew all of our licenses, but after that we want to try our hand at vending in Old Town and revamping our cookie dough cart for next football season!”

How do you think students from different colleges across CSU can benefit from learning more about entrepreneurship?

“So much of our economy is small businesses and entrepreneurs. Anyone with an idea can create their own business and it’s a very rewarding, hands-on experience that opens you up to all kinds of different people, ideas, and connections.”

Have you ever done a business pitch before?

“No, this was my first pitch competition. It was slightly nerve wracking, but a really fun experience and everyone was so responsive to all the presentations.”

What do you think your biggest takeaway from the Showcase was?

“My biggest takeaway is that creating a pitch is so different from giving an academic presentation, it’s much more of a conversation. As long as you know the ins and outs of your company and can make an emotional connection with the audience you can create a great pitch.”

What do you think the benefits are of working together with students from other majors on projects or business ideas?

“Working with all different majors and students gives you perspectives on things outside your range of expertise. It’s extremely important and can add so much more depth to your venture.”

How did this experience change your perspective on business and entrepreneurship?

“I never knew how fun and interactive pitching could be! I have always been used to academic presentations and this was so much more fun and personal.”

Strong Mama business pitch
Philip Tucker and his Strong Mama teammates pitch their business idea during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Philip Tucker, Strong Mama

  • Strong Mama: Prenatal and postnatal fitness, delivered through online programming
  • College of Business: Graduate Student
  • Major: MBA

Have you ever done a business pitch before? If not, how did it compare to what you expected?

“Yes. With prize money on the line though, there was an exciting level of pressure to make sure you nailed your part.”

What do you think your biggest takeaway was from the experience of preparing your business pitch and taking part in the Showcase?

“There is clearly a lot of support for startups at CSU from experts who want to see new businesses succeed. Show your genuine passion for the business and make others believe it is going to be as big as you know it will become.”

Do you hope to continue with your business idea?

“Absolutely. This is a business we really believe in and the showcase was a major confidence booster. … I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but getting up in front of everybody and sharing what we have done made me think, ‘We can really do this!'”

What else would you like to share about your experience in the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase?

“We are very thankful for the hard work the Institute for Entrepreneurship does and all the support they provide to CSU entrepreneurs!”

Bamboo Stories business pitch
Aubrey Kruse and Matthew Borcic pitch their company, Bamboo Stories, during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Aubrey Kruse, Bamboo Stories

  • Bamboo Stories: Specializing in personalized children’s books that represent and cater to children with disabilities and special needs.
  • College of Natural Sciences: Junior
  • Major: Psychology
  • Minor: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

What was your favorite part about the Venture Rams Business Showcase?

“My favorite part was being able to meet so many like-minded individuals and seeing all of the different ideas that reflected unique interests and aspirations.”

Have you ever done a business pitch before?

“I had never done a business pitch outside of the classroom before. While intimidating at first, it was incredibly rewarding given the welcoming environment and was nowhere near as nerve-wracking as I had anticipated.”

What do you think your biggest takeaway was from the experience of preparing your business pitch and taking part in the Showcase?

“This was an incredibly rewarding experience that enabled me to see the power of using passion to pursue a purpose and positively impacting as many lives as I can throughout the journey.”

How do you think students from different colleges across the University can benefit from learning more about entrepreneurship?

“Business and entrepreneurship are applicable to all fields. I think that by enabling students to see that entrepreneurship is about way more than just starting a business. … You get to cater it to what you are uniquely passionate about and use that to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Do you hope to continue with your business idea? If so, how did the Showcase change what your next steps will be?

“While I don’t know if I will continue on with my business idea exactly as it is, the competition did enable me to fully embrace my passion for children’s book illustration and make me think about the next steps I want to take to pursue that with an entrepreneurial mindset. While I do plan to incorporate the business idea into what I do in the future, I plan to continue tweaking it and building upon it as much as I can.”

Mongolia Eco Adventure business pitch
Chimgee Nergui and Jinhe Xu pitch their company, Mongolia Eco Adventure, during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Chimgee Nergui, Mongolia Eco Adventures

  • Mongolia Eco Adventures: Offering cultural immersion travel services to students.
  • Warner College of Natural Resources: Graduate Student
  • Major: Tourism Management

What was your favorite part about the Venture Rams Business Showcase?

“Hearing the pitch contest. …. It was very professional and well-organized.”

What do you think your biggest takeaway was from the experience of preparing your business pitch and taking part in the Showcase?

“Listen to other’s comments and feedback to act on it!”

What do think students from different colleges across the University can gain from learning more about entrepreneurship?

“Other college students will bring more diversity [to the development of] the business, while learning through the Institute for Entrepreneurship’s programs. … This gives you the opportunity to see your idea from different perspective.”

What would you say to a student who isn’t sure what entrepreneurship is all about? And what would you say to them if they were interested in entrepreneurship, but not sure if they’d be a good fit for it?

“It’s a very learnable skill and concept if you have a passion for something meaningful.”

Do you hope to continue with your business idea? If so, how did the Showcase change what your next steps will be?

“Yes, this showcase made my business plan more specific and detailed. Thank you very much for facilitating such a wonderful event for us! It was really game changing moment for our team – so motivated to pursue our business idea further.”

UV Clean Disinfector team pitch
Members of the UV Clean Disinfector team pitch their company during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Jesse Turner, UV Clean Disinfector

  • UV Clean Disinfector: Providing tailored solutions to help prevent the spread of various infections.
  • College of Natural Sciences: Senior
  • Major: Biochemistry

Have you ever done a business pitch before?

“I haven’t. I expected a “Shark Tank” sort of format, but it was neat to see that the judges and presenters leaned toward a more wholesome approach to business and away from purely financial goals.”

What do you think are the benefits of working together with students from other majors on projects or business ideas?

“I think there are common themes that run through all the different fields, and insights from biology may be very valuable in the world of business. Parallels between things such as ecosystems and markets can often bring interesting new ideas to light.”

What do you think students from different colleges across the University can gain from learning more about entrepreneurship?

“The confidence to know you can do business on your own is very powerful.”

Business students don’t always have the same in-depth knowledge of disciplines that other students are majoring in, “so new businesses in these other fields can go unfounded. That gap can be closed by non-business students gaining experience in entrepreneurship.”

What would you say to a student who isn’t sure what entrepreneurship is all about? And what would you say to them if they were interested in entrepreneurship, but not sure if they’d be a good fit for it?

“I would say that entrepreneurship is like creating a new species of animal. Some will not work at all, and even the successful ones will require a lot of random mutations to thrive. It’s important to know that some will go extinct, but for entrepreneurship, that doesn’t have to be the end of the line.”

Do you hope to continue with your business idea? If so, how did the Showcase change what your next steps will be?

“Possibly. Given that the next few steps (patenting, legal counseling) are relatively expensive, I will be running the idea through a few more tests to make sure it is valid before going forward.”

Metta Herbs business pitch
Haley Westmoreland pitches her company, Metta Herbs, during the Venture RAMS: Business Showcase hosted by the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Haley Westmoreland, Metta Herbs

  • Metta Herbs: Herbal nutrition from Southeast Asia to support an energetic and balanced lifestyle.
  • College of Liberal Arts: Junior
  • Major: Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts
  • Minor: Entrepreneurship and Innovation

What do you think your biggest takeaway was from the experience of preparing your business pitch and taking part in the Showcase?

“I am more motivated than ever to grow the company. … My biggest takeaway was the need to put Metta Herbs into a language that [the business pitch] audience will understand, which is very different from the language that we use with our target market.”

What do you think the benefits are of working together with students from other disciplines on entrepreneurial projects?

“I think that it is empowering to students who have big ideas, but don’t know how to implement them. … We all can offer something unique but can still relate to what it is like to be a student entrepreneur.”

What would you say to a student who isn’t sure what entrepreneurship is all about? And what would you say to them if they were interested in entrepreneurship, but not sure if they’d be a good fit for it?

“An entrepreneur is a certain type of person. If you are naturally curious, not afraid of hard work, unconventional, intrinsically motivated, and motivated to create or make a change, then entrepreneurship might be for you.”

Read about the Institute for Entrepreneurship