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Interview with Stephanie Salem – An Idea to Profit competition challenger

Last semester, when Stephanie Salem and Noah Spitler entered the Idea to Profit competition, little did they know their Clue-Me-In Impairment App was going to place in the top four! The Clue-Me-In Impairment App is an integrated Smartphone application featuring a series of three tests to assess the user’s cognitive skills and reaction time by detecting key impairments of one who is intoxicated, to prevent them from driving while intoxicated.

We at the Knapp Center managed to catch up with Stephanie Salem, very busy with graduation preparations, and found out all the inside details of the competition, and how it felt to balance it with school, and ultimately, coming out 4th out of numerous talented participants.

Q: What is your major? Have you always been interested in things related to entrepreneurship etc? Or was it just to try out something new that you entered?

A: I am a Finance major and took Introduction to Entrepreneurship my sophomore year. We were required to enter the Idea Challenge, but through this class, I became fascinated with entrepreneurship. I used to always think of entrepreneurship as just owning your own company, but it is much more than that: it is about solving problems, making things better, learning how to innovate, etc!

Q: What were the challenges you faced during the contest?

A:  The biggest challenge we actually faced was not having enough time to prepare our    presentation. Last year, we had two ideas that made it to the competition but we didn’t find out we got in until a week or two before the actual competition. We didn’t have time to do research and work on them because of midterms, but we ended up pulling it off and did well with our presentations! This year we didn’t have too many challenges, other than going up against great competition!

Q: What were the rules of the competition, and what were you asked to do?

A: At Idea to Product, you must answer eight simple questions during a ten minute presentation and it’s pretty easy to submit an idea! These are the questions:

  1. What is your product or service?
  2. What is the technology that underlies your product/service?
  3. How is your underlying technology unique?
  4. Is your product or service innovative? How?
  5. How would you define the best initial set of customers? (Who will buy it?)
  6. What marketplace need does your product or service address better than any other option? (Why will they buy it?)
  7. Describe how you create value for your customers.
  8. What is the market and its size?
  9. How do you anticipate developing IP protection/strategy for your technology

Q:  How did this balance out with school-work?

A: Once you make it to the competition, there is a lot of research that needs to go into the presentation. The presentation requires more in depth analysis and explanations than the eight questions from the original submission. It definitely takes some time, especially in the middle of midterms, but it is worth it and a great experience!

Q: What was the single most memorable moment from the contest for you?

A: My single most memorable moment was making it to finals and placing in the top 4! I (also) love presenting, so that in itself was very memorable.

Q: Did you find the tasks you had to complete very challenging, or were they simple?

A: There is a lot of research and planning that you need to do for the presentation, but with some basic knowledge of a feasibility study/opportunity assessment, it isn’t too hard! There are also many faculty members from IIT who want you to succeed and will give you feedback. It’s nice to  have experienced entrepreneurs who are so willing to be involved and want you to do well!

Q:  Did you pick your team, or were teams assigned?

A: You are able to pick your teams. Noah and I worked extremely well last year-he is an engineer and I am a business major. We decided to enter the competition again this year because of our past success.

Q: What were the things you learnt from your experiences? Has this opened you up to new opportunities, and ways of thinking?

A: You definitely learn a lot from the competition. The judges are experienced entrepreneurs and ask a lot of great questions. They also give really good feedback and advice on how to move your idea forward. And it’s pretty cool to hear the other students’ ideas as well.

Q: With all those talented competitors, it must have been nerve racking for you and Noah! Were   you nervous during the events, or was the atmosphere more fun than competitive?

A: I was a little nervous during the competition, but again, I really like presenting. Many students who don’t normally present seemed to be nervous, but overall the competition is pretty laid back. The judges are very nice and make the atmosphere comfortable.

Q: What would be your advice to other students who might want to follow in your footsteps?

A: I would recommend this competition to any student who has an idea for a product or service! It is a really rewarding experience. And even if you don’t have an idea yet, get a group of students together and start thinking of one!

Q: Overall, what would you say about your experience?

A: It was an awesome experience both years I attended and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity!

So there you’ve heard it (or read it, rather), straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak! The I2P Challenge is a great move towards encouraging entrepreneurship among the youth of today. This competition truly gives students a look into the world of entrepreneurs, with great advice from an experienced panel of judges, as well as a chance to learn from the ideas of others. This competition is a great chance for anybody who has the next great idea, or even just wants to have a taste of the business world.

 

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Love Crunch: Fills two stomachs at once!

What would you think of a granola bar that you could enjoy while knowing that it is helping someone take his or her first steps in recovering from starvation? We all give money to funds for the poor and helpless, but one often tends to wonder: Whom, exactly, is this money going to? Thus was the question posed by Mitchell Blosky, founder of The Love Crunch Company. Of course, back then, there was no Love Crunch Company. It was just Mitch and this idea just starting to take shape in his mind. An idea that is now feeding hundreds of America’s starving people.

And how did he do this, you ask? Well, it’s a simple concept, really. Each Love Crunch bar is a circular granola bar. Except, what you get isn’t really a circle! It’s a semi-circle. Because, every time you buy a Love Crunch bar, the other half goes to one of America’s most starving people. And not just that, you can actually track the person whom it’s going to through the Love Crunch website (www.lovecrunch.org)! When asked about what his inspiration was for starting Love Crunch, Mitch said with a little smile “I kept seeing people working to help the poor, but I never understood where the money was going, and I thought this was a more literal way of feeding those in need”, through the Google chat window during our remote interview.

Starting in our very own city, Chicago, this former Architecture student from IIT has fed the homeless in Las Vegas, East St. Louis, and Washington DC. And in just a year and a half! After winning the Idea Challenge 2010, Mitch then put his idea into practice. The Love Crunch Company was started in December 2009 and was incorporated in March of 2010. He also opened up a non-profit called The Love Crunch World Hunger Relief Organization to work with local food shelters in all of Love Crunch’s cities. The Love Crunch Company manufactures and distributes the bars, and when they sell one, they give  the other half to the Love Crunch World Hunger Relief Organization to give to the poor.

With 26 vitamins and minerals, a number higher than any other brand on the market, each Love Crunch bar doesn’t just fill a stomach, it actually starts to reverse the effects of malnutrition and hunger. It is based on all organic products, selected by 40 of the leading brands in the market. And it’s all American – the ingredients come from the South West and the Mid West, and everything is packaged in Indiana, using all completely recyclable products, making this “the most socially responsible product on the market”. In case you need even more incentive to buy your first Love Crunch bar, our own Nik Rokop from the Knapp Center tells me he bought a box and they are absolutely delicious!

One can hope to find Love Crunch at convenience stores and most coffee shops in the near future, but right now, they can be found at “Overflow Coffee Bar” and “Off the Tracks Grill”. One can also order them online at the website mentioned earlier. Love Crunch is always open to people wanting to volunteer by helping in delivering Love Crunch bars, and in any other way that they want to help.

As for the future, Mitch hopes to someday spread the love with Love Crunch across the world, and document the stories of the people that Love Crunch has helped. When asked about how they decide where they should go next, Mitch said with some thought, “We do a lot of research on who needs our help the most. It is easy to see on the news, and hear from other people, like New Orleans after Katrina. We haven’t been able to feed a whole city, but we’ll get there. My ultimate aim (like the website says), is feeding the worlds 1 billion starving people, 1 Love Crunch bar at a time”.

So there, you’ve heard it all. Seem too good to be true? Well try one, and tell me how you liked it!

 

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