Suburban students win Elmhurst University Bluejay Tank Contest
At Elmhurst University's second annual Bluejay Tank competition, students demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit by pitching business concepts ranging from a startup music production company to an app designed to help college students keep track of their wallets.
Mallory Burke, an Elmhurst U. junior from Evergreen Park, Ill., won first place for GrillGirlz, a barbecue grill deep-cleaning service that she started last summer with a $120 loan from her parents. With nine employees -- all women -- the business is on track to earn a net profit of more than $18,000 this year.
Modeled loosely on the popular TV show "Shark Tank," the Bluejay Tank competition gives students the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs in exchange for feedback and a shot at $3,000 in cash prizes.
With her $1,500 prize, Burke plans to trademark her business, provide safety training to employees, build a website and expand to other states.
"Before the competition I was at a point where I wasn't sure where to take my business," she said. "Winning gave me the confidence to push forward. And as a participant, I've made connections with people who can help me succeed."
Matthew Gans, a senior from Batavia, Ill., won second place and $1,000 for MGProductions, a photo and video marketing company that has produced ads for Aston Martin and other top businesses.
Third place and $500 went to Luis Chavez, a junior from Rolling Meadows, Ill., for Scanology, an online tool that helps high school students find the right college.
"As a first-generation student, I didn't have much help with my college and scholarship search," Chavez said. "I remember staying up all night looking for colleges while I juggled graduation requirements, homework assignments and other extracurricular activities. By creating Scanology, not only can we help students thrive, we can help them through their journey."
As part of their prize, all three winners will have the opportunity to meet with venture capitalist Larry Hayward, partner and co-founder of Independence Equity, to get tips on presenting their business plans to investors.
Elmhurst University is a leading four-year institution of higher education that seamlessly blends liberal learning and professional preparation to help students reach their full potential. Founded in 1871, Elmhurst now offers more than 70 undergraduate programs of study, more than 20 graduate and certificate programs in flexible formats, and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy for young adults with differing abilities. Elmhurst University, formerly Elmhurst College, is among the top-ranked colleges and universities in the Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report.