On Thursday, April 20, Truett McConnell University’s Hans Hut School of Business hosted its first annual TMU Idea Labs – a SHARK TANK™ themed contest open to Truett McConnell University (TMU) business students. After reviewing the initial waive of entries, five finalists presented their new products and respective business plans to a panel of judges.  Judges included Matt Rial, managing partner for Novel Ventures, Shelbi Davidson, managing director for Novel Ventures, Philip Smith, President and Founder of Compass Pest Management, and Dr. Jason Graffagnino, Chief Financial Officer for Truett McConnell University.

Students had 10 minutes to present their business plans followed by a period of questioning from the judges. After the conclusion of the presentations, judges ranked the presentations and awards were announced.

In third place and winning a $500 scholarship was Anna Thomas from Athens, Georgia.  In second place and winning a $1,000 scholarship was Zion Schiller from Martinez, Georgia.  The grand prize winner was Gracie Braunschneider from Fairfax, Virginia who won a $1,500 scholarship and a $10,000 prize for start-up capital for her business.

Dr. Stacy Hall, Associate Professor of Business and Program Director of Strategic Partnerships for TMU’s Hans Hut School of Business said, “This was a fun event and I’m so impressed by the work our students put into their business plans and subsequent presentations.  The intent of the contest was to facilitate entrepreneurialism and creativity and that goal was certainly attained.”

Gracie Braunschneider, this year’s TMU Idea Labs grand prize winner said this about the contest, “This competition was a formative and encouraging experience for me as it gave me the opportunity to share something that I find precious with others. Every element of the contest was beneficial – from requiring me to put my ideas on paper and create a detailed business plan to removing me from my comfort zone with public speaking. This was not a comfortable experience, but it proved to be a worthwhile one, and will remain to be an event that I will hold in my heart forever. I am endlessly grateful for those who have believed in me, my ideas, and my vision, and I am abundantly thankful for the opportunity to make this business a reality.”

Other finalists included Andee Colley, Jordan Roberts, and Hoy Thurman IV.  Attached are head shots of each winner along with a group photo of 4 of the six finalists including (from left to right): Jordan Roberts, Anna Thomas, Gracie Braunschneider, and Andee Collee.  Also attached is an infographic of the winners. Not in photo: Hoy Thurman IV and Zion Schiller.

Truett McConnell University is a private Christian liberal arts and sciences university located in Cleveland, Georgia, offering 50 different programs of study including baccalaureate and master’s degrees.  The University boasts a 17:1 students to faculty ratio while 100% of freshmen receive financial aid.  For more information about the Truett McConnell University, visit www.truett.edu.


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