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Beacom School of Business Hosts 5th Annual Invent-to-Innovate Competition

"" The 2019 Invent-to-Innovate university track winners.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business featured a variety of high school and college talent at the 5th annual Invent-to-Innovate (i2i) Business Model Competition on March 29.

The competition, which started in 2015, is a Shark Tank style competition that gives students the opportunity to present their business plan ideas, receive constructive feedback from a panel of judges and compete for prize money. The program was launched to foster entrepreneurial education and interest among high school and college students throughout the region.

A total of 15 high school teams and seven college teams showcased their entrepreneurial skills at this year’s competition.

“The goal of the i2i competition is to prepare aspiring entrepreneurs for the realities of starting a business,” said Aron Spencer, Ph.D., director of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Beacom School of Business. “The business model competition allows the students to come up with a business idea and challenges them to overcome various obstacles they may face with a successful launch.”

During the award ceremony, Greg Bertsch, Ph.D., entrepreneurship faculty at the Beacom School of Business and president & CEO of Antimicrobial Materials Inc., gave the keynote address. Bertsch shared his personal story as an entrepreneur and encouraged students with a message about maintaining focus, persistence and motivation in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Winners of the Competition Included:

University Track

• $2,000 – 1st Place: “Grade Gains LLC” - Sam Nesbitt (presenter) and Mark Ebarle; South Dakota School of Mines, SD
• $1,500 – 2nd Place: “Escape Midwest” - Jacob Johnson; Northwestern College, Iowa
• $1,000 – 3rd Place: “Together We Stand” – Faith Ireland (presenter), Nicole Detches, Hallie Downs and Taylor Jones; University of South Dakota, SD

High School Track

• $1,000 – 1st Place: “Sweet Sole” - Mackenzie Brady, Kenzie Kerkman and Carter Mart; Vermillion High School, SD
• $750 – 2nd Place: “ Gras Gear” - Austin Craighead, Turner Henry, Madison Johnson, Cole McClure and Austin Wilshire; Sioux City Community Schools – Career Academy, IA
• $500 – 3rd Place: “Armario+” - Will Fairholm, Quinton Herrara, Harshavardhan Kadarkaraisamy and Kaleb Priester; Vermillion High School, SD
• $250 – Crowd Favorite: “Hair Hero” - Avery Johnson (presenter), Emily Kayl and Kensie Mulheron; Vermillion High School, SD

This year’s competition included the following guest judges:

• Gary Archamboult, Director, SD Small Business Innovation Reach Program
• Blaine Crissman, Partner, South Dakota Equity Partners
• Rozzy Finn, Technology Transfer Officer, University of South Dakota
• Linda Halliburton, Director, Graduate Business & Executive Education Programs, Beacom School of Business, University of South Dakota
• Marcia Hendrickson, President & CEO, MitoGenetics
• Marcella Hurley, Regional Director, Small Business Development Center
• Dustin Pratt, Portfolio Analyst, Avalon Capital Group
• Mel Ustad, Director, SD EPSCoR
• Nate Welch, Executive Director, Vermillion Area Chamber and Development Company


USD's Beacom School of Business was established in 1927 and has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949. The leading business school in the region, Beacom’s programs are consistently ranked among the top business schools in the nation by Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and others for its high-quality learning experience, student success, affordability, and high-caliber of faculty and students. Whether a student chooses face-to-face or online courses, Beacom’s programs emphasize real-world experience through professional organizations, quality internships and capstone projects.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News