By Kelsey Otero, associate director of social innovation
This spring, the 707 Hub in partnership with Brady Corporation hosted its annual pitch competition, the Brewed Ideas Challenge. The goal of the program is to “brew” innovative ideas and foster the entrepreneurial mindset at Marquette University. Ten finalists pitched their ideas live on stage at the 707 Hub in one of two tracks, the Social Venture track and the Traditional Business track.
“Innovation is in our DNA at Marquette, and we’re pleased that Brady Corporation continues to partner with our 707 Hub and encourage students to pitch their ideas and be difference makers on campus and in the community,” Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said.
Open to all Marquette students, the competition awards $21,000 annually in seed funding and has given out over $100,000 in six years. Finalists received mentorship support from Brady employees during the months leading up to the competition. Mentors helped refine and perfect students’ ideas and businesses. More than 150 people attended and cheered on the finalists and winning teams at the April 12 event.
Tom Felmer, president of Brady’s Workplace Safety division and a judge for the 2019 competition, said, “Partnering with Marquette’s 707 Hub has been a great experience and is a natural fit for Brady as we continue to focus on innovation throughout our company. Each year our employees look forward to mentoring a new group of students and seeing what creative new business and product ideas they come up with.”
Along with Felmer, the following industry professionals also served as judges for the competition: Katie Milbeck, Innovation Incubator senior manager at Brady Corporation; Asim Khan, co-founder of ZYN Holistic Wellness; and Marianne Szymanski, founder and president of Toy Tip, Inc. and entrepreneurship professor at the University of Southern California. Khan and Szymanski are both graduates of Marquette.
- First Place: OLUOMO — A custom, tailored fit, made-to-order Nigerian women’s fashion line that helps customers find unique prints and designs, and save time shopping.
- Second Place: REVIVE — A workspace where students can create upcycled products from campus-collected plastics and educate others about the realities of plastic use.
- First Place: Liv a Little Vegan Ice Cream — A homemade vegan-friendly ice cream made from coconut-based products that bring a unique creaminess often missing in other vegan frozen desserts.
- Second Place: ConfIdence — A curated box service that delivers motivational tools which aim to enable college students to consistently implement self-improvement and stress relief into their lives.
Both the Social Innovation track and Traditional Business track are eligible for the Audience Choice Award and/or the Brady Innovation Award.
- Audience Choice Award: ConfIdence
- Brady Innovation Award: The Hub MKE — Located in the Near West Side neighborhood, The Hub MKE repairs, rents and sells used bikes.
The Brewed Ideas Challenge is sponsored by the Brady Foundation and programmed by The Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Initiative. Former winners include Sendgineering, Complete Shaping, Bridge the City Podcast, Thrift/ed and Bimbley.