Aspiring MSMS entrepreneurs compete in business plan contest – The Commercial Dispatch

Open eyes, open minds.
Upright is an aspiring Mississippi-based company that wants to manufacture 3D-printed prosthetics, which would significantly cut down on cost for those in need.
A business pitch made by Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students Nicholas Djedjos, Aadhav Senthil and Lucas Yu won the three students $3,000 on Tuesday evening during a business plan competition. They earned top marks among four groups of MSMS upperclassmen in the Shark Tank-style competition, after months of developing a hypothetical business idea.
Upright proposed a product aimed at low- to mid-income individuals in need of prosthetics, with special emphasis on veterans whose care comes from the Veterans Affairs hospitals. The functionality of the 3D-printed prosthetic can range depending on what is needed, and it can range from low to high functionality.
Upright’s lightweight and low-cost material would allow a full leg prosthetic to cost around $4,000, far less than the $70,000 they said those typically cost to manufacture out of state. Oftentimes, funding is an issue, and amputees do not get the best option that is available because it is too expensive, they said.
“At Upright Prosthetics, we introduce the 3-D printed prosthetics, which drastically cut down the manufacturing and material costs of traditional prosthetics,” Djedjos said. “We’re going to be local — reaching out to the 35-plus clinics around Mississippi to ensure we have the greatest impact possible. We’re going to have a website with rural and worldwide capabilities. individuals who don’t have access to prosthetic clinics can order prosthetics from the comfort of their own home. Most importantly, we’re the first 3-D-printed prosthetic manufacturer in Mississippi.”
Another proposed business named Electrastep, pitched and idea which would allow people to recharge batteries while getting their workout in. Everett Miller, Dylan Griffith, Chingun Tsogt-Erdene and Elena Eaton won $1,500 for their idea of a battery powered by kinetic energy in shoes. As long as the shoe-wearer’s feet are moving, whether walking, running, or jumping, the battery is charging for that person’s cell phone.
The battery pack is located in the lip of the shoe, and while it is not waterproof, it is water-resistant. Electrastep would team up with shoe companies like Adidas and Nike to help provide this new technology in popular shoe designs and to help hit its target demographic of active men and women.
“We don’t have a specific industry because of the complexity of the product, but our direct competitor is portable chargers. In that market, there’s $12 billion. That’s a lot of money,” Miller said during his pitch. “This year, during operating, we hope to target a $4 million share from that $12 billion. Electric disks are placed in the bottom of the shoe that generate electricity on every footstep that you take. Electricity is then transferred into a battery inside of the shoe that has an easily accessible charge for your phone.”
The MSMS Business Plan Competition began five years ago thanks to social sciences teacher Kayla Hester. The competition challenges juniors and seniors to create a viable business plan with a product and eventually present the plan to a panel of judges.
“When I was hired, one of the hopes with my position was to, among other things, start an entrepreneurship program. Part of that involves teaching entrepreneurship within the economics classes that we already offer, but the other part we envision would be this annual competition,” Hester said. “The second year that I was here, we started working on that and now we’re in year five. Some of the students have taken my economics class, but some of them haven’t. It’s open to anybody who wants to participate, but it makes it easier if they’ve taken my class because we go through this process of how to create a business plan.”
Back in October, students began brainstorming together ideas for potential products for a business model. By the beginning of this semester, the juniors and seniors were meeting with mentors from local businesses and the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach.
Last week, four finalist groups finalized their presentations and left no stone unturned when it came to possible questions that could arise in their presentations to a panel of four judges, who are all entrepreneurs themselves.
Other finalists were Amanda Zhou, Kevin Liu, Raeed Kabir and Sam Sun with a subscription-based 3D printing service called 3DHub; and Lasajes, composed of Sephora Poteau, CJ Jordan and Nathan George, that focused on aiding teacher lesson planning.
“I think this is a good example of how innovative and creative our students are. I think this competition is nice because it can sort of illustrate that creativity and show that they can, as many of the groups talked about, give back to Mississippi,” Hester said. “I think a lot of the students have that sort of in mind; they want to find ways to give back and make the state better. So, that is a lot of their focus on these plans, and many of them, I imagine, will go on one day to create real startup businesses that will make a big impact.”
Prize money was donated by attorney Jeff Turnage and his wife, Anne. Jeff Turnage said he was more than happy to contribute to not only Mississippi’s youngest and brightest minds, but the country’s.
“You have the reputation of countrywide excellence, and you should be congratulated for that. What makes me proud to be here is the gift that Dr. Hester gave us again when she asked me to come acknowledge the fantastic potential possessed by each of the children, young adults, and particularly the competitors in the finals of this competition,” he said. “It’s very plain to me that you young ladies and gentlemen will be able to hit the ground running in college and to hopefully have your parents living in your basement one day rather than the other way around.”

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