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Severe allergies, comfort and breast cancer are sources of inspiration for the winning ideas in Northwood University’s business pitch competition

February 19, 2021

Creating a line of salsas free from common food allergens won a Northwood University student first prize in the 2020-21 Bauervic Business Pitch Competition.

Entrepreneurialism is deeply embedded in the Northwood culture and curriculum, producing a steady stream of young people with original ideas and the know-how needed to get them to market. This is the 11th year that the Bauervic Business Pitch Competition, sponsored by the Charles M. Bauervic Foundation, has supported that mission by offering teams of Northwood students the opportunity to devise and develop a start-up business concept, then pitch it to judges with real-world experience. A total of $6,000 in prize money was available to the 16 students and student teams who entered the competition.

This year’s contest was adapted in several ways amid efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Instead of the usual in-person presentation of business plans to judges, students prepared video pitches. The presentations, which usually take place each November, were delayed until January to give students time for producing their videos.

But the students were undaunted, as evidenced by the high quality of the entries, said John Gustincic, a Northwood faculty member who oversees the competition. Here is a summary of the winning entries:

First Place ($3,000): Mitchell Willman for “The Willman’s Brands,” a line of salsas made without ingredients that commonly cause food allergies. Mitchell is allergic to several ingredients that prevent him from eating many common foods. That motivated him to develop salsas that will serve the special dietary needs of allergy sufferers. Mitchell is currently pursuing multiple intellectual property protections for his products.


Second Place ($2,000): Joseph Rupert and Brendon Krimmel for “Layman’s Bedding,” build around a product innovation that they hope will revolutionize the bedding industry. Joseph and Brendon are pursuing a patent for the innovation through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Third Place ($500) tie: Olivia Haring for “Hot Tots,” a line of bras uniquely designed to benefit woman who are treated for breast cancer. Olivia lives with her aunt, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020. Olivia learned that patients have different needs at each stage of treatment, so she developed a bra suited to those changing needs. Olivia hopes to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in the near future.


Third Place ($500) tie: Molly Dickinson for “Benched,” a business that will educate female athletes, parents and coaches about a condition known as female athlete triad, which can lead to problems including bone injuries, osteoporosis and infertility. Molly was diagnosed with the condition in high school, but went on to become a college athlete, and she now hopes to help others achieve their athletic goals without sacrificing their well-being.


“A common link among this year’s entries is that they turn a challenge into an opportunity,” Gustincic said. “I’m tempted to point out that such a mindset is invaluable during troubled times like what we’ve been experiencing lately, but the truth is that the world is always filled with challenges, and the mindset of Northwood students gives them a big advantage in any environment.”


In addition to the competition winners, the Bauervic Business Pitch Competition also presented the “Community Impact Award” to Northwood students Kennedy Vancalbergh and Shay Milley, who recently opened Energize Midland, a tea and healthy shake shop in northeast Midland.

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