New sustainable and recyclable consumer products brand wins 2015 UK Venture Challenge

LEXINGTON, Ky. (February 2015)  —  University of Kentucky architecture graduate student Mark Manczyk won the UK Venture Challenge and a $1,500 scholarship with his business idea, "re.3." Second place and $1,000 went to Phillip Gordon with "Nomad Apparel." The "FinanceU" team of Michael Lewis and TJ Barnett won third place and $500. UK Venture Challenge was held Feb. 28, at the William T. Young Library UKAA Auditorium.

“Congratulations to all of the students who participated in UK Venture Challenge,” said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto. “This competition provides students the opportunity to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial, which is an important part of their educational experience.”

Mark Manczyk, a first-year graduate student in the Masters of Architecture program, said “'re.3' will produce sustainable consumer accessories with an end of use program that incentivizes customers to recycle old products. I plan to continue iterating on further designs and product ideas for 're.3' via 3d printing. These will be helpful in showing more of a product suite for 're.3' since the business model is less about one single product, but rather about the dynamic of the recycling and reuse of the sustainable materials from previous products.”

Manczyk said that Venture Challenge was important in expanding his belief and confidence in the business concept for "re.3."

"Having the opportunity to receive comments from the judges and others there on Saturday is extremely valuable in helping me to evolve the business and have more potential for success,” he said.

Marketing senior Phillip Gordon’s concept for "Nomad Apparel" is to produce comfortable and stylish clothes, starting with jeans, with a secure pocket.

“I plan to use the prize money to order new pants and shorts to prepare for a full production run and to develop new product lines I am designing,” said Gordon, who not only won second place, but was also the online vote winner with 5,542 votes.

“Venture Challenge gave me the opportunity to practice my presentation skills and show off all my hard work over the past months," Gordan said. "I was glad to meet so many like-minded students in their entrepreneurial pursuits and hope this competition continues to grow at UK.”

Third place winners Michael Lewis and TJ Barnett described FinanceU as a free, innovative, community-based platform that empowers any student to build their own scholarship through the process of crowdfunding.

“Our team is working hard to develop FinanceU. The money we won will be used to help bring FinanceU to market this fall,” said Lewis, a finance and accounting freshman, who added, “Visit to get started and learn more!”

Partner Barnett is also a freshman in finance and management.

“Competing in Venture Challenge was a great experience that allowed us to network with some awesome entrepreneurs and get great feedback on our company,” Lewis said. “We were honored to compete against so many great ideas.”  

The first and second place UK Venture Challenge winners will represent UK at the state competition, Idea State U, regionals sponsored by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

The UK Venture Challenge competition is organized by iNET Director Deb Weis with Dean Harvey, the executive director of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship. iNET, the Innovation Network for Entrepreneurial Thinking, is hosted by the College of Communication and Information. The Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship & the Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network are part of the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

2014: Student entrepreneur teams Shouter and MosquitoTech win UK Venture Challenge

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 7, 2014) — The undergraduate team Shouter and graduate team MosquitoTech were the winners of the third annual University of Kentucky Venture Challenge student entrepreneur competition. Each team won $1,000 in scholarship prize money and will represent UK at the state competition, Idea State U, April 11-12 at the Lexington Convention Center.

Shouter is a mobile application for connecting users to the people and events around them. Team members are computer science seniors Josiah Hanna, Charlie Effinger and Craig Schmidt. Their application will allow information to be shared in a localized area through a dynamic network of users while maintaining user privacy and security. The students, who entered Venture Challenge in the business concept category, will now prepare a business plan with detailed financials for the state competition.

The graduate team MosquitoTech is Alex Blasingame, Justin Johnson and Rob Arnold, all MBA candidates in the Gatton College of Business and Economics. The students were paired with UK researcher and medical and veterinary entomology Professor Stephen Dobson, who has patented a technology to control the Asian tiger mosquito. The students put together a business plan for an environmentally responsible product to control and eliminate this pest, currently in 26 states.

Daniel White, a mechanical engineering junior, won second place undergraduate and $500 for his Dream Fit personal training company that provides one-on-one customized fitness training for customers during live Skype sessions.

The second place graduate team of MBA candidates Miguel Doughlin and Erica Clark, and Satrio Husodo, a molecular and cellular biochemistry Ph.D. candidate, will share $500 for Arymza Technologies. Their business plan targets the $15 billion starch market using new enzyme technology developed by UK molecular and cellular biochemistry researchers Matthew Gentry and Craig Vander Kooi that makes it easier to process starch.

Both of the second place teams will also represent UK at Idea State U, a program of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

The online top vote winner with 6,325 votes was the team of Richard Graff, computer science sophomore and Ethan Palmer, electrical engineering sophomore, for Easy Conference. Their mobile application concept will make the process of planning and executing meetings and events easier, more efficient and more effective.

Additional undergraduate students who participated in the 2014 UK Venture Challenge included: Bryan Wright, architecture junior; Charlie Miles, electrical engineering senior; Chris Lee, marketing and management senior; and Alexandra Hart, agricultural economics senior.

Graduate students included: pharmaceutical sciences, CET, Ph.D. candidates Huy Ngo, Rene Gonzalez, and Jarrod Williams; Matt McErlean, pharmaceutical sciences, drug discovery, Ph.D. candidate; and MBA candidates Amber Mills, Vladimir Goussev, and Stephen Stone.

Sponsors provided $3,000 in scholarship prize money that will be shared by the winning teams. For the third straight year the lead sponsor was the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, including the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Commerce Lexington, and the University of Kentucky. New sponsors this year were the Gatton College of Business and Economics and the College of Communication and Information.

The UK Venture Challenge competition and monthly workshops leading up to Venture Challenge are organized by iNET Director Deb Weis with Dean Harvey, executive director of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship. The Innovation Network for Entrepreneurial Thinking, also known as iNET, is hosted by the College of Communication and Information; the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship / Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center is part of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. Chris Lee is president of the Big Blue Starters student entrepreneur organization.

Other members of the Venture Challenge team included: iNET Entrepreneur in Residence Brian Raney; Nick Such, Adam Chaffins, Theresa Simcic, Garrett Ebel, and David Booth from Awesome Inc; Scott Johnson and Amy Triana of the Department of Communication Office of Research and Instructional Technology; Mariam Gorjian, Von Allmen Center; Heather Burke, photographer and School of Library and Information Science student affairs officer; and College of Information and Communication Chief of Staff Janice Birdwhistell.