VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business seniors Cortney Bickley and Abby Wollschlager took first place in the 2019 Innovation Expo student pitch competition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Oct. 10.
The Innovation Expo is an entrepreneurship conference that focuses on connecting entrepreneurs, innovators and investors for an afternoon of speakers, breakout sessions and networking opportunities. The student pitch competition was made up of six finalists, who each presented their ideas to an audience of over 100 conference-goers. Junior Jaden Javers was also selected as a finalist for her concept “KeyMe,” making the USD the only school to have multiple finalists in this year’s competition.
“We are delighted that our students received top honors at the 2019 Innovation Expo,” said Venky Venkatachalam, Ph.D., dean of the Beacom School of Business. “Women entrepreneurship is critically important to the economic development of South Dakota, and we are proud to be empowering our students with the tools they will need to be successful in the future.”
Bickley pitched “SafeRun,” a discrete, portable device that individuals are able to wear for peace of mind when exercising alone. A USD track and field athlete majoring in business administration and minoring in innovation and entrepreneurship, Bickley conceived her business idea after following the nationally publicized Mollie Tibbetts case in 2018. “The story really hit close to home for me. I wanted to develop a product that would allow me, my teammates and anyone who exercises outside to be safer when they are alone,” said Bickley.
She partnered with senior Abby Wollschlager, an innovation and entrepreneurship major, to help further develop the idea. As first place winners, the team made a lot of great connections at the Innovation Expo that will help them as they bring “SafeRun” to the next stage of development. They plan to attend the Growth Summit for Female Founders in Fargo, North Dakota, as part of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week.
“I’m very proud of Cortney, Abby and Jaden, and the work that they’ve done this year,” said Aron Spencer, an innovation and entrepreneurship faculty member. “I think it shows how strong our program is that we had such great representatives on stage.”
This year is the sixth annual running of Women Entrepreneurship Week, which takes place Oct. 19-26. The USD Beacom School of Business is one of more than 200 universities and colleges in 30 countries and 43 states participating in Women Entrepreneurship Week.