Challenge brings out innovative business ideas

Ten businesses and entrepreneurs pitched innovated business ideas to a panel of expert judges at the inaugural Innovation Challenge hosted at Kishwaukee College on Oct. 17. Pictured are the 2019 Innovation Challenge competitors.

ROCHELLE – Kishwaukee College has recently announced the winners of its inaugural innovations “business idea” challenge.
The challenge was sponsored by Kishwaukee College, The Rochelle Retail Advisory Board and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Wabaunsee Community College and was held at the Kishwaukee College Conference Center.
The challenge sought either innovative ideas for launching a new business or new ideas for an existing business and included 10 businesses and entrepreneurs competing for cash prizes.
Competitors delivered a three-minute pitch to a panel of expert judges that scored the pitches according to innovation and other categories on a mathematical rubric. Expert judges included Jeff Fiegenschuh, Rochelle city manager; Derek Hiland, community development director of DeKalb County; Manish Patel, owner of Liquor ‘n’ Wine in Rochelle; and Kate Shaw-Dickey, assistant vice president of human resources at Holcomb Bank.
“Events such as these supports the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels so many great innovations and businesses,” said LaCretia Konan, director of business and training partnerships at Kishwaukee College. “I would like to thank all the competitors for participating and wish them all the best.”
The prizes in the competition ranged in value from $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, $500 for third place and $100 to everyone else that competed. First place was awarded to David Pack from Schaumburg with his idea for life-size building blocks called Box Blox, that kids can use to create anything they could imagine like storefronts or clubhouses.
“Many of us may have seen a kid have more fun out of a box than from the toy inside, a few years ago, we put that to the test when I purchased 150 moving boxes and put them in my front yard,” Said Pack. “I was soon amazed to see kids from across the block come over and play for hours and hours.”
The motto of the Box Blox is “build big, store small” since they collapse down and can be stored in a small container.
Second place was awarded to a group of students from Northern Illinois University who created a business that aims to help make finding a parking spot on campus easier. The business idea is titled “Your Spot Awaits” and was created by Gustavo Casa, Adam Coonich and Anguel Tochkov and has been in business on campus since 2017.
“Our idea revolves around lot monitoring through vehicle tracking systems that can be accessed by students throughout a dedicated app,” explained the group. “The idea of our company came from the minds of students looking to solve the various parking issues around campus.”
Members of this group would like to say that just like every other student, they have had their own share of bad parking experiences, but they just decided to do something about it.
The third-place prize went to Mary Ley from Aireloom Music Inc. in Mount Morris for her solution to a very common problem for guitar players. The problem she is hoping to solve is losing the guitar pick inside the sound hole of the guitar — this is being solved by attaching a small strap from the pick to the players’ fingers.
“I use plastic waste for my guitar pick and strap that attaches to the players finger, it is called Pick In Hand and is made from 100 percent plastic waste,” explained Ley.
Kishwaukee College and its sponsors would like to thank Liquor ‘n’ Wine, Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Rochelle for contributing the cash prizes; Jock Sommese, advisor for DBDC, for preparing competitors and tallying scores; Peggy Friday, industrial development manager for the City of Rochelle, for assistance with the Innovation Challenge; and Samantha Burkus, owner of Sunshine Bakery in Rochelle, for providing desserts.
Plans for the 2020 Innovation Challenge are already underway, and for more information, contact Kish’s director of business and training partnerships LaCretia Konan at [email protected]


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