Young entrepreneurs amplify success by winning two business plan contests

    May 09, 2011

    Warhawk Business Plan winnersAn entrepreneurial team at UW-Whitewater has gained $10,000 and plenty of momentum by winning two prestigious business plan contests with a promising idea for guitar amplifiers.

    The team won the fifth annual Warhawk Business Plan contest on campus, then advanced to a regional contest in Milwaukee and repeated its success.

    Team members, all from Fort Atkinson, are David Hartwig, a senior at UW-Whitewater majoring in physics; Brennon Garthwait, who graduated from UW-Whitewater last year with degrees in business and geography; and Evan Preston, who has an associate degree from Madison Media Institute in recording and sound design.

    Their business idea for Renwig Custom involves robotic guitar amplifiers. A foot switch would allow a musician to activate robotic actuators that change the settings on the amplifier.

    "The result is a very clever way of providing digital-age control while maintaining a classic analog sound," said William Dougan, Irvin L. Young Professor of Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater. "I think the premium segment of the sound reproduction market will receive it very well."

    Renwig Custom won first place and $5,000 by impressing a panel of alumni and business judges in the campus Warhawk Business Plan contest, which was founded by the student group Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization.

    The $2,500 second-place winner in the campus contest was Thirsty Clothing, a T-shirt and accessory company run by two business management students, Michael Fitzpatrick from Oconomowoc and Nicholas Kochelek from Cedarburg. Third place and $1,500 went to Wieners International, the brainchild of Justin Nothem, an entrepreneurship major from West Bend who says he is "revolutionizing the world of wieners."

    Judges in the Warhawk contest were Rex Weston '83, founder and CEO of zuplo.com; James Lindenberg '81, owner of the Milwaukee Wave, Lindy Enterprises and JML Holdings; Deborah Taylor Johnson '70, owner and retired CEO of Taylor Johnson Associates; Michael Peterman '09, founder and CEO of Small Business Technology Solutions; and Laurie Benson, former owner of Inacom and current owner of LSB Unlimited.

    The campus contest was supported by donations from the Milwaukee Wave, Lindy Enterprises and the Debra Malewicki Endowment for Entrepreneurship.

    The Renwig Custom team moved on to win first place and another $5,000 in the Mason Wells BizStarts College Consortium Business Plan Contest, open to students in the seven-county Milwaukee region. Team members earlier reached the finals of national competition in the CEO elevator pitch competition and the Northwestern University Entrepreneur Idol Competition.

    The young entrepreneurs of Renwig Custom plan to build their business through a program in the Innovation Center at Whitewater University Technology Park.

    "The idea turns 40 years of technology change in the amplifier business inside out,'' Dougan said.

    Others who coached the team were Choton Basu, associate professor of information technology and business education; Jeff Vanevenhoven, assistant professor of management and coordinator of the entrepreneurship program; Jim Caldwell, president of First Citizens State Bank in Whitewater; Tyler Sailsbery '10, founder of nomoredorms.com; and J.D. Carroll, a senior and employee of Blackthorne Capital Management.

    Photos (top to bottom): A student strums an electric guitar at the Renwig Custom showcase; Thirsty Clothing apparel display; Wieners International cart; Professor William Dougan.

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