Evergreen students pitch business ideas to local entrepreneurs

December 14, 2017

Evergreen students gathered in SEM II on December 2 to pitch their startup business plans to classmates and local industry experts. Showcasing enterprise ideas in a wide range of sectors including the arts, independent radio, and food and beverage, the presentations were the culmination of a fall program titled Startups and Entrepreneurships.

Taught by faculty members Helena Meyer-Knapp and Robert Walker, the evening program is a junior- and senior-level class that teaches students about financing, planning and validating startup business ideas. The course also covers nonprofit and business models and corporate social responsibility principles.

Student entrepreneur Lindsey Warner presented plans to create an art gallery dedicated to displaying experimental student art.

“We are creating a space that will serve as a gallery and a classroom,” Warner said.

Warner and her group found that student art has had a tough time making it into Olympia galleries, despite the large number of galleries in the area.

“Potential customers are prevented from having the opportunity to purchase [student] works,” she said. “There are over a dozen fine art galleries in Olympia, although those are full of works by known, working artists. There is little possibility of a new artist emerging through this outlet.”

Her business plan proposes to make the location attractive by offering both a wide variety of classes and competitive pricing.

“The gallery will hold classes on many subjects and facilitate student art shows,” Warner said. “Our class prices are competitively priced and we plan to keep our class sizes roughly half the price of industry standard.”

Despite the relatively short time frame of the program, the breadth of information covered was extensive. Students collaborated in groups throughout the quarter to construct their business ideas from the ground up.

“These student teams covered critical features in creating a startup business in an astonishingly short time frame,” said Meyer-Knapp. “They tested product and market fit with real-world experiments, developed the numbers needed to understand actual cash flow, filled in sample versions of the legal and fiscal forms they would need and they met bankers, venture capitalists, and business coaches.”

“It was one of the most productive quarters of teaching and learning that I have ever experienced,” added Meyer-Knapp.

Another student, Lucas Burke, shared plans to establish a brewery in the Shelton area. He wants the brewery to be something special to locals and tourists alike.

“The problems is that Shelton does not currently have a brewery,” Burke said. “I’m not just trying to create another bar or tavern; what I want to do is create an experience.”

Burke says that his brewery experience should be one that brings customers closer to the natural splendor of Washington.

“We’re interested in attracting our customers to the national parks and the Hood Canal area,” Burke said. “We hope that our marketing plan can really establish that sense of place.”

Both Warner and Burke presented to Evergreen alumni Anne Lewin and Sash Sunday. Lewin is a consultant and retail business owner in Seattle. Sunday is the owner and founder of OlyKraut, a gourmet sauerkraut business in Olympia.

Other student projects included a consultative service for people ages 50-64 which would offer strategies and planning for end-of-life, a business which makes soil-fertilizer from insects (sharply negating the impact of fungal and bacterial problems), a slow fashion e-boutique selling locally-produced jewelry and clothing as well as other ethically produced brands, a coffee cart to be operated in the skyways of Minneapolis, and a line of skin care products made entirely out of hemp oil. 

Learn more about Evergreen’s evening and weekend studies programs.