SBJ for 12.1.19 Around Town Innovation Challenge

Join us from 4:30 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Studio at Sooner Theatre for the 2019 Norman Innovation Challenge. The Innovation Challenge is an event designed to highlight the exciting business concepts and innovations emerging from students in our educational institutions. On Dec. 5, 2019, student teams from the University of Oklahoma and Moore Norman Technology Center will compete separately and pitch their business concept to a panel of judges. The winning teams will be announced as part of our program, which will also feature a quick pitch from each finalist. The prize for first place will be in the form of cash or scholarship from the Norman Economic Development Coalition.

Young people are often told to develop an “elevator pitch” as they go through the later stages of school.

On Thursday, six young entrepreneurs will give the ultimate elevator pitch in 90 seconds during the third annual Norman Innovation Challenge at the Studio of the Sooner Theatre.

The challenge: adequately describe the basics of their business or start-up to the public.

The six entrepreneurs, three from the University of Oklahoma and three from Moore-Norman Technology Center, were selected for the Norman Innovation Challenge after being named finalists during the Entrepreneurship Expo at OU on Nov. 15. The expo gave local students the opportunity to present their business, start-up or prototypes to business leaders and other members of the community.

The six finalists were selected by a panel of judges based on several factors, including commercial viability, innovation and degree of interest.

Denise Parris, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at OU, said the expo and Norman Innovation Challenge are in part to help aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to practice their skills.

“(The expo) serves as a way to further validate their business concept, as well as introduce themselves to the community and hear feedback on their ideas,” Parris said. “(The challenge) furthers that opportunity for these finalists. It's a great afternoon to get inspired and support young entrepreneurs and young business leaders. To me, these are the exceptional students that have taken their own initiative to achieve a lot. They've gone beyond what's expected of them.”

The Norman Innovation Challenge will start with closed door meetings between the finalists and the judges. Each individual will present their business one-on-one with the judges 90 minutes before the event, and the judges will then select a winner from OU and MNTC.

Then, the public will be invited to attend the “elevator pitches,” where each individual will stand on stage and give a quick 90-second presentation on their business. After the presentations, the judges will announce the two winners. The winners will each receive a trophy and a cash price.

The three OU finalists and their businesses are:

• Bridal Wave: an online simplified wedding planning platform that directly connects couples and vendors to make dream weddings a reality. Founded by Calla Hamlin and co-founders Tyler Hunt and Chance Koon. Their website can be visited at

• Olio: a local art sharing platform where local artists can go online, create a profile and sell their art in local areas. Founded by Brandon Thomas.

• Respond Flow: an SMS software that allows businesses and users to schedule and send targeted messages to customers and prospects, while maintaining a personal touch. Founded by Martin Lien with co-founders Austin Graham, Matt Morf, and Peter Daggett. Their website can be visited at

For Hamlin, this will be her first experience with the Norman Innovation Challenge, but has participated in several local entrepreneurial events. She said Bridal Wave was founded as a way to help guide engaged couples through the wedding planning process, and she was inspired after helping plan weddings for several of her friends.

“It was really eye-opening to see firsthand how stressful this process is on couples who haven't done this before, have a limited budget and have no idea what they're doing,” Hamlin said. “I'm a hopeless romantic at heart, and I hate the idea that people are fighting over something that should be the happiest day of their lives.”

The three MNTC finalists and their businesses are:

• Leti Clothing: A clothing business that takes old, out-of-date clothing and designs pieces of art that people can wear. The focus is on clothes that are gender neutral. Founded by Adan Hurtado.

• Lexi's Lavender Lemonade: A lemonade business that fuses the sweet drink with the smell of lavender included in the taste. Founded by Alexandra Cowen.

• Rusentic: A custom tag business that puts small business logos or other custom designs on leather bag tags. Founded by Michael Love.

Love said the OU expo in November was his first entrepreneurial experience, and that it helped prepare him for the future of his business.

“I was nervous when I got there and started setting up my table,” Love said. “But as the expo went on, I found that I was more comfortable with talking to people about my business. I'm nervous but also excited about the (Norman Innovation Challenge).”

Parris said these events will hopefully help these entrepreneurs grow and continue to find success with their businesses.

However, she has words of advice before Thursday's challenge.

“Practice, get feedback, and practice again.”

Coming up

• Norman Innovation Challenge

• 4:30-6:15 p.m. Thursday

• Studio at Sooner Theatre, 110 E. Main St, Norman

Jesse Crittenden


Follow me @jcritt31

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