Students compete to win cash prizes at the New Venture Challenge

CMU senior Lawai’a Brown took home the top high growth award and the overall award with his venture, Dominator Cleats, for a total of $20,000.

| Author: Kaye Reimers | Media Contact:

Flexible cleats, chip dispensers and a rural healthcare nonprofit were a few of the 40 new ventures pitched at the New Venture Challenge last Friday, April 19 at Central Michigan University. CMU senior Lawai’a Brown took home the top high growth award and the overall award with his venture, Dominator Cleats for a total of $20,000. 

During the day, fifty-five esteemed judges descended on campus to determine who would win over $100,000 in total awards and which lucky venture would walk away with the $20,000 for the overall best venture award. The top nine teams in the full presentation categories of Main Street, Social Mission and High Growth, presented a 10-minute pitch on their business in French Auditorium. A panel of judges offered feedback and asked tough questions. Meanwhile, over in the Bioscience Atrium, 30 venture teams pitched to judges in the 2-minute Elevator Pitch competition. The top six elevator pitch teams went on to a final round in French Auditorium.  

NVC 2024 also marked the introduction of a new competition category called Alternative Entrepreneurial Pathways powered by Doug Parker, as well as several new prizes. Teams had the chance to snag up to $5,000 each with the Campus Impact, Doug Parker Rural Impact and Bob Larson Creativity awards.  

After the full presentation and elevator pitches concluded, over 300 guests headed to the Bioscience Atrium to enjoy a strolling dinner and to view the presenting student teams and creative student projects in the venture gallery and innovation showcase. Over 100 student entrepreneurs networked with industry leaders and entrepreneurs. The showcase included student-designed clothes from Threads Fashion Show, a student-run record company, a student-built race car and student-created videogames and animated shows. The audience voted on their favorite displays in both the venture gallery and innovation showcase. 

Emotions ran high in the awards ceremony, as student teams waited to hear who would walk away with top cash prizes of the night. Overall venture winner Lawai'a Brown said, " I had a great experience at the NVC. I was able to meet so many successful people that shared a lot of great insights and feedback. It was a great environment to be in. It really embodied the strong culture of CMUs family. Even though it was a competition, the support we had to each other was incredible. Everyone wanted the best for each other's venture."

Congratulations to all competitors!

NVC Overall Winner 

The Morey Overall Best Venture $10,000 - Dominator Cleats, Lawai'a Brown 

NVC Full Presentation Winning Ventures

High Growth Category

The Korson Family Highest Growth Potential $10,000 - Dominator Cleats, Lawai'a Brown 

The Reed Family 2nd Place $5,000 – Buff Co., AJ Kostic 

Kristie Nystedt 3rd Place $2,000 – CHXPT, Rocio Costilla & Marisa Lopez 

Main Street Category

Kulhavi Top Main Street $10,000 – HappyPets, Maxwell Grubaugh 

Isabella Bank 2nd Place $5,000 – Tides & Tiaras, Alina Krasinski 

Clyde and Jessica Rucker 3rd Place $2,000 - Northwoods Music, Jacob Mcleod 

Social Mission Category 

Best Social Mission $10,000 – Atti Naomis Foundation, Omomoemi Agbegha 

2nd Place Social Mission $5,000 - Lead You Home, David Abilez 

3rd Place Social Mission $2,000 - SustainaBowl, Meenakshi Cheella 

Alternative Entrepreneurial Pathways Winner 

Doug Parker Alternative Entrepreneurial Pathways Award $5,000 - Restoration 1 Detroit, Gavin Kushmaul  

Special Award Winners 

Bob Larson Creativity Award $5,000- The Roxie, Mela Hammond 

Doug Parker Rural Impact Award $5,000- Tides & Tiaras, Alina Krasinski 

Campus Impact Award $5,000- College Coffee Co., Nicholas O’Brien 

Skornicka Accounting Services Award in-kind- Northwoods Music, Jacob Mcleod  

Middle Michigan Development Corporation Investor Award $2,000 and in-kind- Star Leaf Botanicals, Ian Becker  

Venture Gallery Winners

Top Venture Gallery $4,000 - Lead You Home, David Abeliz 

Team Financial Group, Inc. 2nd Place $2,000 - Crcl, Derek Ballas & Joshua Lim 

3rd Place Venture Gallery $1,000 - Mane Attraction Retail, Mackenzie Good 

(2) Brenda & Dennis Buckler Honorable Mention of $250 each-  PolarFlex, Mitchell Metiva |  Rasegan Outdoor Company, Robert Rasegan 

Elevator Pitch Winners

1st Place Elevator Pitch $4,000 - Edgewater Estate Management, Trevor Shuman 

2nd Place Elevator Pitch $2,000 – The Roxie, Mela Hammond 

3rd Place Elevator Pitch $1,000 – Porta-Wall, Markus Shannon  

(3) Honorable Mention Elevator Pitch of $250 each – K-Temp, Kenneth Tate | Raygun Digital Media, Justin Miller | MapScratched, Carolina Hernandez-Ruiz 

Audience Choice Winners

Greg & Sue Cocke Top Venture Gallery $1,000 - CHXPT, Rocio Costilla & Marisa Lopez 

Team Financial Group, Inc. Top Innovation Showcase $1,000 - Threads Fashion Show 

Team Financial Group, Inc. Runner-Up Venture Gallery $500 – SustainaBowl, Meenakshi Cheella 

Team Financial Group, Inc. Runner-Up Innovation Showcase $500 – Chippewa Racing FSAE, Nathan Holder, Alec Reilly, Nolan Mango, Matthew Wakulsky, Temirlan Jandaliyev, Breckin Prichard, Kyle Kieser, Ethan Williams, Williams Lyons.  

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