MTEC SmartZone Sponsors Michigan Tech Student Entrepreneurs at New Venture Competition - Students bring home $45,000 in prizes!

HOUGHTON, Michigan (May 1, 2012) – Nine student-entrepreneurial teams from Michigan Technological University competed against 21 Central Michigan teams for $65,000 in prizes, at a recent business plan competition in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Several Michigan Tech students came home winners, and were presented certificates of achievement by event sponsor, MTEC SmartZone.

New Venture Competition is a joint collaboration between Michigan Tech and Central Michigan University, and is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the nation’s top student-business plan competitions. Throughout the business planning process, student entrepreneurs worked closely with mentors to receive advice and direction from industry professionals.

MTEC SmartZone was instrumental in providing support to the participants, who brought home $45,000 of the $65,000 in prize money. They matched teams with local business professionals, organized training workshops, marketed the event and provided other resources, like transportation, and sometimes even pizza to keep the students motivated. Through MTEC SmartZone’s involvement, participants were provided dozens of external opportunities to engage in entrepreneurial activities in the community and nationwide.

Winners include Ben Mitchell and Wade Aitken-Palmer, who won first place – and $30,000. They created better bicycle components for rural Africans, with their business plan, Baisikeli Ugunduzi (Swahili for “modern bicycle”). In addition to their first place prize, Mitchell and Aitken-Palmer won another $10,000 for Best Social Venture.

Taking third place was Picket Books, a book-rental business concept developed by Michigan Tech students Kyle Johnston and David Shull. The team plans to reinvest the $5,000 prize money locally by opening Picket Books, where students can rent text books from each other online. The business intends to launch in spring 2013.

“MTEC SmartZone gave teams the opportunity to create actual business plans and consider things like liability insurance, QuickBooks, and the many other details fundamental to running a business. The mentors guided us through the ‘other side’ of writing a business plan and preparing for an investor pitch,” says Michigan Tech student and event organizer Travis Beaulieu.

After the competition, MTEC SmartZone recognized the participants at a bowling party and celebration. Jonathan Leinonen, Program Director for MTEC SmartZone, presented each team with a certificate of achievement.

For more information about MTEC SmartZone, please call (906) 487-7000 and visit