The first time Nick Schmit ran through his “pitch” presentation he didn’t do so well.
“I stammered through the whole thing,” the third-year veterinary student from Randolph, Nebraska, said. “I wound up being the runner-up in the competition.”
So after finishing second in the College of Veterinary Medicine Pitch Off, Schmit moved onto other projects. But then he got an email encouraging others who didn’t win their college competition to go ahead and participate in the campus-wide College-by-College Pitch Off sponsored by Iowa State’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.
Figuring he had nothing to lose, Schmit decided to pitch his innovation a second time.
“I did it more for fun than anything,” he said, “and my pitch couldn’t have been any smoother.”
Still, after Schmit watched some other pitches from engineering and business students, he didn’t like his chances in the competition and he “almost didn’t go back to the awards ceremony.”
It was a good thing he decided to attend. His innovation, Safety Slide Pocket Gate, won the best new innovation at the university level.
His product is one he and his older brother created. It serves as a baby gate and sometimes as a pet gate. But unlike similar products on the market, the Safety Slide Pocket Gate has a very distinctive design.
The gate is designed to roll back into the door frame after use. The mechanics for the device are built into the wall and can be customized to match the woodwork of the house. The product has been safety tested to hold up to 800 pounds with as many as 43,000 cycles of moving it back and forth into the wall.
Schmit says customers have discussed using the product in a variety of different ways but its primary use is at the top and bottom of stairways.
Students in the Pitch Off create business ideas and then craft 90-second presentations about their product. A panel of judges determine the winners in a variety of different categories at the university competition.
In his pitch, Schmit started out with a brief personal introduction before launching into his product description, including telling the judges what the product was and how it would be used. After the pitch, contestants are questioned by the judges for two minutes.
“When I first developed my pitch, I was at two minutes but I was soon comfortable with what I was able to convey to the judges in 90 seconds,” Schmit said.
Schmit became involved with the Pitch Off through the Veterinary Entrepreneurship elective course taught by Dr. Alex Ramirez, associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and the holder of the Roy A. Schultz Professorship in Swine Medicine.
In the College of Veterinary Medicine Pitch Off, Joel Steckelberg, a fourth-year veterinary student, won first place for “Heritage Farm Co-Op.” In addition to Schmit, the other CVM runner-up in the competition was Kelsey Deaver, a second-year veterinary student, who presented “Rage Room.”