‘Big Pitch’ new business contest selects winner

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Trinity Carey

A new activity made its way to the shores of Lake Superior last summer and this year it will return even bigger. Portage Paddle Sports offers Stand Up Paddle boards, kayaks, float tubes and inflatable paddle boards for recreation on the the Portage Canal in the Keweenaw waterway.

Senior entrepreneurship major Brendan Jacques will grow Portage Paddle Sports with prize money he received after winning first place at NMU’s 11th annual “Big Pitch Competition,” held on March 29.

The event, which is a part of NMU’s College of Business New Business Competition, is a “Shark Tank” style competition that gives students and graduates the opportunity to pitch their business plans to a panel of judges for the chance to win consultations and funds for their businesses.

“It’s been awesome. I learned a lot. When I first started the business it was just a one page idea,” Jacques said. “From being a part of this, it really opened me up to new aspects of the business, per se. I really dug deeper into it and learned some new things about it.”
After all the time and effort put into developing his business plan, winning the recognition of first place made it all worth it, he said.

First place included $2,000, a $1,000 consultation with 906 Technologies, a $2,500 consultation with GMWWP accountants, a $750 legal consultation with Kendricks Bordeau Attorneys At Law, and a $1,500 consultation with a faculty member of choice from the NMU College of Business, making the total prize package worth $7,750.

“The prize money is probably going to be implemented into some new paddle boards. I really want to get some paddle boards that hold five to seven people so we can get into some new services, such as guided tours and party packages and team bonding,” Jacques said.

Jacques said the feedback provided by the judges during the competition is invaluable advice to take forward.

“It gives an opportunity for students to really ask some people that have done it, who have built businesses from the ground up, what they think about it and whether it’s viable or feasible and if it can actually grow and be something,” he added.

Second place was awarded to junior accounting major Keefer Edwards for his business Modern Marketing, which allows his company to create brand identities and customized products for other businesses.

Third place was awarded to Nick Beaudreault for his business idea Marq Etiquette Board Shop, which would provide gear for board sports to the area.