Inventors pitch their ideas in competition
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent March 23, 2013 5:00PM
Dawn Fleming of Cedar Lake talks pitches her product, Medicine*Dispense, during The Big Sell competition at the Radisson Hotel Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Merrillville, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 25, 2013 7:24AM
MERRILLVILLE — Loopy, an inexpensive cell phone case with a finger loop to keep phones from dropping or falling out of pockets, was the first place winner in this year’s The Big Sell Entrepreneurs in Action competition held Saturday.
The competition is put on by Purdue University Calumet Center for Entrepreneurial Success and was held at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville.
Fifty finalists were allowed two minutes to pitch their products to those in attendance. Those 50 were whittled down to 10 top finalists, who gave a second, two-minute pitch to those in attendance and a panel of four judges, who asked questions for two minutes.
In his second two-minute pitch, Loopy Cases CEO J.T. Wangercyn of Schererville said people spend twice as much on cell phone repair than they do on toilet paper each year, a problem he said could be fixed with the silicone rubber case.
“My dad created the first product. When he bought his first iPhone he literally just walked out of the store and dropped the phone on the ground,” said Wangercyn, who graduated from Purdue Calumet with a degree in entrepreneurship.
He said his father, John Wangercyn, is CFO of the company and brother Jim is the CIO.
Second place went to a trio from New Haven, Conn., who developed Pulse.Ly, which allows consumers to answer a quick survey from a business on their smartphone that the business can review in real-time.
The presenters said the information would be captured and given to business owners for a fee of about $50 per month.
Third place was awarded to a business headquartered in Valparaiso called Campfire-2-Go. Keith Schroeder explained the product is an all-in-one portable campfire that burns completely and contains an extra bag of kindling, instructions and matches.
“Get your s’mores ready. This will jump-start our company,” Schroeder said.
He said the product, which comes in three sizes, would be marketed to campers and those with backyard fire pits.
Dushan Nikolovski, director of Purdue Calumet’s Center for Entrepreneurship Success, said more than $60,000 in prizes were given away Saturday.
“The quality of contestants continues to go up. We’ve had some fly in from Texas and some drive 12 hours from Connecticut. There have been simple ideas to highly sophisticated ones,” he said.
Nikolovski urged everyone entered in the competition not to walk away with negative feelings if they didn’t win. He showed a video featuring several people who didn’t succeed the first time, including the founder of Honda, who was turned down for a job by Toyota; Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team; and President Abraham Lincoln, who lost eight elections.
“Don’t ever give up on your dream,” Nikolovski said.