With the same concept as the “Shark Tank” reality TV series, Eastern Kentucky University’s Scholars Tank offers students the opportunity to present their business ideas in front of “sharks” and compete for a $5,000 award. On April 13, as part of the university’s annual Scholars Week, five groups of students pitched their proposals within a two-minute limit and a panel of judges asked questions, provided feedback and ultimately decided which idea got funded. Business ideas at Scholars Tank included “Colonels Cycle,” a rental bicycle system where students could rent out bicycles throughout campus, and “EKU Market,” an opportunity to help small business owners show their business and inspire others to start a business with the help and support of their peers and the EKU community.
Karina Guallpa, a finance and risk management and insurance double major from Florence, Kentucky, along with Kelsey Beedy, a managerial accounting major from Lancaster, Kentucky, presented their winning business idea, “The Vintage Tailor.”
“The Vintage Tailor is a second-hand apparel store in which we take second-hand clothes that are either donated or that we purchase for the business and alter them to best suit our target audience,” said Beedy.
Beedy and Guallpa came up with their business proposal due to the lack of thrift shops in the area for students, such as themselves. “We are constantly thrifting, but we realized that there are no thrift shops that target college-age students. Our idea is important, because it supports sustainable living while also allowing customers to be happy with their clothes and to be able to change and alter them,” said Beedy. “The Vintage Tailor” team of Beedy and Gullapa was awarded $5,000 from the Scholars Tank to help start up their business.
EKU Assistant Professor in Marketing James Blair invited students from his classes to participate in Scholars Tank.
“We presented to the judges because Dr. Blair not only advised us to enter into the competition, but we also saw a great opportunity to get funding to start our business. Even if we didn’t win, it was still a great opportunity to learn from it,” said Guallpa.
“The students had a lot of fun pitching their business ideas at Scholars Tank, and our judges were very impressed,” said Blair.
SERVPRO Franchise Owner and Leadership Speaking Expert, Julie Roberts volunteered to serve as a judge on the panel at Scholars Tank.
“I love seeing what trends are happening with young audiences so I know how to adapt my own businesses. But I learned so much in my college years from experienced professionals, and I always valued that they took some time to give me feedback and real-world translations to my ideas. I was hoping to be able to ‘give back’ some of those same experiences to these students,” said Roberts.
The panel of judges consisted of Roberts; EKU Director of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors and Professor and Associate Chair of the Psychology Department Dr. Jonathan Gore; Sass in the Bluegrass Owner and The Vendor Social Chief Marketing Officer Miranda Stewart; and Xact Communications Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dale Cooper.
EKU provides students with access to resources in order for them to be successful, such as research articles from the Library and private rooms where students like Beedy and Guallpa can focus on and practice pitching their business ideas.
“Our biggest takeaway from our research was that there needs to be a change in which people are able to have sustainable clothing near them such as in Richmond, Kentucky,” said Guallpa.
Events such as Scholars Tank allow students to explore and showcase creative, innovative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Scholars Week increases opportunities for faculty-student collaboration through recognition of research, academic excellence and professional success.