Idea Pitch Competition graphic that says Unleash your creativity

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Five finalists will have five minutes to sell their ideas, shark tank style, at Northern’s annual Idea Pitch competition on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Gallery. The audience will weigh in on who walks away with cash prizes. The event is free and open to the public to attend. This year’s finalists include students from the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Fine Arts and School of Business.

The finalist and their ideas are:
•    Alexandria Arndt, Criminal Justice: 9LIVES
•    Diana Li, International Business, Marketing, Public Relations: YUTH
•    Daria Poor, Studio Art: The Maker Space
•    Natalia Szybinska, Communications Studies, and Nkemdilim Chibuko, Communications Studies and Psychology: Wolf Ride
•    Sam Tremelling, Business Admin: Global Athlete Network

The Idea Pitch Competition started nearly a decade ago in an effort to increase entrepreneurial thinking across campus and to encourage students to be entrepreneurial in their approach to solving problems, whether that’s for social good or profit.

“We have creative, out of the box thinkers. This is an opportunity for all students to get engaged with entrepreneurship, which is not just for business students. Entrepreneurial thinking is important for everyone,” said Hannah Walters, associate professor of marketing.

The competition has seen positive results both on and off campus. It encourages students to look at the pain points in their fields and bring their solutions forward. Students begin to recognize that their ideas can have a positive effect on their world. Those students then transfer their skills into the community and become change-makers.

On Nov. 16, the finalists will give their five-minute pitch to four sharks (judges) and an audience of peers and community members. Then the sharks get five minutes to ask questions.

The sharks are all external and from different backgrounds: Mike Bockorny, Aberdeen Development Corp.; Kelly Weaver, Small Business Development Center; Olaf Hanson, Dacotah Bank; and Tim Hanigan, Banner Engineering.

After all the pitches, the sharks will leave to deliberate. In the meantime, guest speakers will talk about their experience as entrepreneurs.

“We invite a small business owner to come in so students can learn from a real live entrepreneur. This year’s guest speakers are Elizabeth and Justin Docter with Lizzy’s Pizza Party,” Walters said.

Aberdeen Development Corp sponsors the event and donates $1000 in prize money. First place will receive a check for $500, second place will receive $250 and third place receives $100. In addition, there are three People’s Choice awards that will be decided by audience participation.

“It’s very engaging and a lot of fun,” Walters said. “The community gets to experience the energy that college students add to the community and region. Students add vibrancy, ideas and fresh perspective. They see solutions that we maybe never thought of. These are future leaders of our communities.”

The winners will all be given the chance to apply for the statewide Governor’s Giant Vision Competition in the spring, where they will compete against ideas from undergraduate and graduate students across the state. Northern intentionally hosts its Idea Pitch competition in the fall to allow students time to decide if they want to take that next step.

Several students in the last few years have applied and placed at the statewide event. Tawnie Williams took third in 2022 and last year, Grace Kramer placed second.