Student Entrepreneurs Share Tips for Venture Competition

When it comes to turning your big idea into a successful venture, a strong presentation and pitch can make all the difference.

That advice helped engineering student Dynamite Obinna win the People’s Choice award at the Launch Your Venture expo at Embry-Riddle last spring. Obinna’s jetway venture consists of a passenger boarding bridge on planes that allows passengers to simultaneously board or deplane through multiple access doors. Obinna is now in the process of securing patents for his invention.

Engineering student Jack Kelm was part of a team that won the $1,500 first-place prize for the Hercules Lift, a lift that allows users to move heavy objects like a car engine with ease. Kelm said that having a prototype to display helped catch the attention of the judges.

With two big competitions coming up, students and College of Business faculty share their tips for what it takes to have a winning venture:

Perfect your pitch

A good elevator pitch should include the problem you are solving, how your idea or product solves that problem and what makes your idea or product different from what already exists. Studies show that you typically have a minute or less to catch someone’s attention, so a good pitch should get to the point immediately. A good pitch should make your potential investor or customer care about what you do and provide a call to action on how to get involved or support your endeavor.

Attend a workshop

The College of Business is hosting several workshops on campus to help students prepare for the Trep Expo. Workshops will be held Feb. 27, March 6 and again in late March. Check the College of Business website for workshop announcements.

Make your presentation stand out

While there is no standard model for what your presentation should look like, students must have a poster to display information about their venture but are also encouraged to provide accompanying displays such as laptops, prototypes and handouts. “It should look like you know what you are doing. Know every aspect of your venture, what people will ask, what pitfalls to avoid, and what you are best at,” Kelm said.

Focus on the problem your venture solves

Your venture should solve a unique problem and be original. Kelm suggests doing your research to find similar products or inventions and how you can improve what already exists or create something that hasn’t been done before. Know everything about your product including costs, materials and the resources required to get off the ground.

Have an open mind

Even if your venture doesn’t win an award, take advantage of the networking and learning opportunities from meeting judges with business experience across a wide variety of industries. “I wish I knew entering the competition was a doorway to many more future entrepreneurial opportunities such as receiving funding in the form of scholarships and grants, mentorship and a way to grow to be a better entrepreneur,” Obinna said.

All full-time students, employees and alumni are invited to submit their best venture concepts for the Entrepreneurship “TREP” Expo on April 11 at the UC Flight Deck. All applications are due by March 24 and can be submitted here.

The top four student projects at the TREP expo selected by a panel of investors and business professionals will then be eligible to enter the April 18 “Launch Your Venture” competition, where winners will be chosen on the basis of commercial viability, originality and general interest. The TREP Expo will feature up to $2,000 in prizes and Launch Your Venture will feature a total of $18,000 in prize money with $10,000 going to first place. The competitions also provide opportunities for networking with judges who have experience in investing and building successful businesses. 

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at