Teanna Bass, founder of Sweet Tea Cosmetics, took second place at MU's EQ Student Accelerator pitch event. | Fengjiaxin Li

MU student startups score share of $30K, advance to statewide pitch contest



University of Missouri students with dreams of expanding their businesses got one step closer this week.

Ten student entrepreneur teams from the University of Missouri competed in the first Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator Pitch Day on Tuesday.

The event was started as a part of an initiative by University of Missouri System President Mun Choi to promote entrepreneurship at a collegiate level and support entrepreneurially minded students across all the UM System schools.

Libby Martin took first place and won $15,000 for her startup, Calving Technologies. Teanna Bass of Sweet Tea Cosmetics won the $10,000 second prize. Clayton Cary of Infoproduct took third and collected $5,000. All three will move on to the next stage of the competition, where they will face the winners from the UM System’s three other campuses in another pitch competition for a share of $30,000.

Calving Technologies

Martin’s company is focused on helping farmers decrease calf mortality by helping farmers monitor their herd through GPS-enabled collars. Martin, who’s now a student at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, came up with the idea in 2015 when her family farm lost a number of cows and calves.

“It was detrimental financially as well as it was just exhausting work,” Martin said. “So I called around to a bunch of different vet clinics and asked for solutions, and no one had any. So I was like, ‘I guess we got to put our brain to work.’”

The collar, which is currently under development, would track data like temperature and the coordinates of a particular cow, notifying the farmer of that information.

“The technology is there,” Martin said. “It’s just a matter of perfecting the algorithm and getting it to where they get an alert and it’s accurate.”

Martin plans to use the money from the competition to continue working on the prototype of the collar as well as perfecting the algorithm.

Sweet Tea Cosmetics

Bass founded Sweet Tea aiming to give minority customers a great option for all of their beauty and cosmetic needs. The business, which sells cosmetics products and offers salon services, has a storefront in the MU Student Center that Bass said has been very successful. But with her graduation from MU approaching, Bass realized her business would have to pivot.

“We were like, ‘This is the subscription economy. Everyone is involved in some type of subscription whether it’s Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify,’” Bass said. “So it was just like, ‘Why not move my model into that model?’”

Bass plans to use the money to continue to expand her business as it heads in this new direction.

Infoproduct

Cary’s startup, Infoproduct, is a digital platform that aims to streamline people’s access to different educational tools. Cary said that he was excited for the next phase of the competition and that he hopes one day Infoproduct will be “like Yelp but for teaching.”

Some of the other presenters at the competition included Chase Scanlan, Ross Scanlan and James Yoon’s application SL.APP, which is designed to simplify subleasing, and Drew Patel’s service Identifying.Me, a web-based tool for identity verification.

The big picture

Tuesday’s event was the culmination of a process that started in the fall. The presenters first had to compete to be selected for the EQ Student Accelerator. Since the start of the spring semester, they have participated in an eight-week education and were mentored by executives, investors and other experts.

Greg Bier, an MU business professor and director of the accelerator program for the Columbia campus, said that all of the participants had great ideas and should be proud.

“It was actually harder to choose than we thought,” Bier said.

The competition continues April 5, when winners from all four UM System schools will meet in Columbia to pitch for a share of $30,000.

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