Entrepreneurial Showcase Shines Light on Local Student Innovators

Byron High School students and entrepreneurs Maddie Harris and Maia Jorgensen.

Byron High School students and entrepreneurs Maddie Harris and Maia Jorgensen.

Last night, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Rochester Rising held the first ever Student Entrepreneurial Showcase during Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week to shed light on products and services created by southeast Minnesota students from the high school to graduate level. The event took place at Saint Mary’s Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center, a reclaimed native wetland area along Cascade Creek in northwest Rochester.

Five student teams participated from around the region.

Current John Marshall student Keerthi Manikonda talking about her mobile app, Via.

Current John Marshall student Keerthi Manikonda talking about her mobile app, Via.

The event centered around an open demo, a science fair type experience where teams set up shop at their respective tables, walked through how their product worked, and refined their pitch by interacting with the attendees.

The evening also served as a qualifying round for the Junior Angler, or student, division of Walleye Tank, a biannual Minnesota business pitch competition for companies at all stages of development. To qualify for the competition, teams gave live, 120-second formal presentations to an audience and pair of judges- Julie Henry, Enterprise Contract Manager at Mayo Clinic and Christine Beech, Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary’s- to move forward in the contest.

"This event helped to highlight just how many students here locally have a passion for being change makers and who see themselves as entrepreneurs. We make an investment in our collective future when we encourage this drive and create forums to showcase their talents," explained Beech.  "This next generation is going to accomplish great feats and we would be well served to come together as a community to support their efforts."

Keethri Manikonda, representing the teen entrepreneurs behind the mobile application Via, and the team of Maddie Harris and Maia Jorgensen of Byron High School won the “People’s Choice” awards for the favorite product among attendees.

Keith Kallmes of Superior Medical Editing.

Keith Kallmes of Superior Medical Editing.

Via is a mobile application created by teens, for teens to combat distracted driving. Manikonda is a current senior at John Marshall and is also participating in post-secondary coursework at the University of Minnesota-Rochester. Harris and Jorgensen are also creating a mobile application, called Volunteerium, to connect communities and link citizens with volunteer opportunities.

Two teams- Brazen and Superior Medical Editing- qualified for Walleye Tank and will participate in the final round on December 1st.

Brazen is a brain injury diagnostic tool to reduce brain trauma among football players and other contact sport athletes. This platform is being developed by Mayo Clinic student Jamie Aponte-Ortiz and Rochester resident Jeff Prussack.

Superior Medical Editing is a neuro-specific medical writing and editing service developed by Keith Kallmes, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and brother Kevin, a current law student at Duke University.

Students Matthew Mikall and Siham Abdi of Mayo High School also participated in the showcase. This intrepid pair are creating Project YOU, a digital project to amplify people’s stories and help them feel more confident speaking up and sharing their individuality.

This first Student Entrepreneurial Showcase offered just a small taste of the student entrepreneurial climate in southeastern Minnesota. The organizers hope to continue this event and gain even more traction during Global Entrepreneurship Week next year.

"The Student Entrepreneurial Showcase was yet another example that we are starting to see of entrepreneurs flourishing in Rochester,” said Jaime Sundsbak, Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week lead organizer. “I'm so proud of these students and look forward to helping them continue with their businesses."