Six Iowa State University students who planned the first-ever Londonfest celebrating British culture in downtown Ames captured top honors at the 14th annual College of Human Sciences Entrepreneurship Showcase, held Thursday in LeBaron Hall.
“We are especially proud of the turnout we received,” co-leader Leah Blankespoor, a senior in event management, said of Londonfest’s estimated attendance of 1,600. “Since this is the first Londonfest in the history of Ames, we were so pleased with how many attendees supported this new venture. We really hope to see this become an annual event.”
Student organizers of Londonfest won the $200 best of show award for a consulting project of an existing business, and $100 first place award for best display and visual presentation, at this year’s Entrepreneurship Showcase.
Human sciences students competed in eight categories for a total of $1,575 in cash prizes at the showcase, which aims to develop an entrepreneurial spirit in students. Judges from business, industry, and academia provided feedback to students on their ideas to start a new business or spruce up an existing one.
This year’s event featured 47 business plans, five small business consulting projects, and two event entrepreneurship projects by students in professor Linda Niehm’s AESHM 474-574 Entrepreneurship in Human Sciences class. Nineteen students also participated in a “business idea pitch contest” where they had 90 seconds to present their ideas for a new business to industry professionals.
Londonfest celebrated the 10th anniversary of London Underground, a British-style pub in Ames. The April 22 event featured multiple food trucks, activities, and live entertainment.
“I was really proud of the Ferris wheel I found and secured for our event because how cool is it to have a 50-foot Ferris wheel in the middle of downtown Ames?” co-leader Bailey Banger said. “I was also very excited about the stilt walkers that I booked because they were in Ziggy Stardust costume to pay homage to the late David Bowie and they looked amazing while walking around Londonfest.”
The team of students — Blakespoor, Banger, Lena Copley, Stephanie Filkins, Madeline Norling-Christensen, and Amber Strait — worked to plan the event with Jess Clyde, owner of London Underground, and Bill Malone, owner of Cafe Diem coffee shops in Ames and Ankeny, who also teaches entrepreneurship in the College of Business.
“They really served as mentors and role models for the event entrepreneurship teams,” Niehm said of Clyde and Malone. “The opportunity for event student engagement was because of their interest in partnering with our class. Those projects would not have been possible without their energy, enthusiasm, passion for entrepreneurship, and desire to guide and inspire students.”
Malone said many pieces of the event relied solely on the students to execute. He said in all cases, they exceeded expectations. Students said the experience will be valuable as they work toward their careers in event management.
“I learned a lot about marketing and planning for an event of this scale and magnitude,” Banger said. “This experience really cemented my passion for events and strengthened my work abilities and creative scope.”
Best new business start-up idea
A proposed restaurant called Second City Eats captured the other $200 best of show award, for a new business start-up idea, at this year’s Entrepreneurship Showcase.
Event management senior Caitlin Theros proposed opening the restaurant in Ames’ Campustown. It would serve high quality, Chicago-style favorites including Italian beef sandwiches, authentic gyros, Polish sausage, tamales, cheesecake, and Chicago-style hot dogs.
“Iowa State is home to a growing population of almost 4,000 students from Illinois,” Theros said. “Second City Eats exists to serve the specific food cravings of this niche market of Illinois students by providing a true taste of home at Iowa State.”
Other business start-up ideas at this year’s showcase included “Perfectly Packaged” by Katie Bendon and Maureen Duggan. The online company would provide a new and unique way to plan events by delivering customized event planning materials, design concepts, and resources straight to a client’s door.
“Perfectly Packaged is completely online and offers professional event planning for a lower cost than an event planner that you have to meet with several times throughout the planning process,” Bendon explained. “Our mission is to alleviate the stress of event planning by providing resources, unique designs, and event planning materials customized towards the specific needs of our clients.”
Mackenzie Jordan, Megan Huftalin, and Leann Meyer proposed starting a travel company called “Reality Escapers” that would plan and organize weekend getaways for college students at a reasonable price.
And Carolyn Fujara proposed opening “CTees,” a custom T-shirt store aimed to address a need in her hometown. The company would purchase blank T-shirts and work with high schools in District 214, the second-largest high school district in Illinois, to create team logos and designs.
Help to Eagle Grove businesses
Five teams of students this semester partnered with ISU Extension and Outreach to help businesses in Eagle Grove as part of the outreach effort called the Iowa Retail Initiative, which provides a single point of contact for rural communities and retailers seeking help.
Students worked with Christ Furniture, Eagle Grove Pharmacy, Lewright Meats, Rails Bar & Grill, and Reflections hair salon and offered them a “toolkit” of strategies to improve their marketing, branding, and more. Eagle Grove Pharmacy's team of Alexandra Larson, Madison Romano, and Chenxi "Ann" Zhang took runner-up for best consulting project of an existing business.
“I have had many group projects, but this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to implement my ideas in the real world,” said Samantha Shirazi, a junior in apparel, merchandising, and design whose team worked with Christ Furniture, a family-owned furniture store that has been a part of the Eagle Grove community since 1948.
Elizabeth Thompson, a senior in event management and marketing, said her team focused on online presence and branding to help Rails Bar & Grill continue to grow its business.
“We did extensive research on how to help them beef up their Facebook and helped them create a website for their restaurant and event space,” Thompson said. “We also did research that will aid them in advertising to their target market ads on Facebook as well as better results with Google searches. Our work with their branding primarily focused on helping them have one single logo that they use on all of their advertisements and media.”
Another student team this year worked on the Firefly Country Nights concerts, scheduled for July 14 and Sept. 8 in downtown Ames.
Here’s a full list of winners from this year’s Entrepreneurship Showcase:
Best of Show New Business Start-Up Idea: First place ($200) Second City Eats: Caitlin Theros. Runner-Up ($100) Grow Box: Megan Van Kirk and Kate Heisler.
Best of Show Consulting Project for an Existing Business: First place ($200) Londonfest: Leah Blankespoor, Bailey Banger, Stephanie Filkins, Lena Copley, Madeline Norling-Christensen, Amber Strait. Runner-up ($100) Eagle Grove Pharmacy: Alexandra Larson, Madison Romano, Chenxi “Ann” Zhang.
Best Use of Experience Economy Strategies: First place ($100) Bessie’s Parlor: Rebecca Lyons. Runner-up ($50) Whiskers: Edward Kuehn, Charlotte-Lucy Gross, Lena Heckel.
Most Sustainable Business Proposal: First place ($100) Franklin + Willow, Business and Personal Branding: Caryssa Philgreen. Runner-up ($50) Beckham’s: Allison Hockensmith, Madison Davis, Kayla Finn.
Best Display and Visual Presentation: First place ($100) Londonfest: Leah Blankespoor, Bailey Banger, Stephanie Filkins, Lena Copley, Madeline Norling-Christensen, Amber Strait. Runner-up ($50) Full Circle Events: Raeann Hanlon.
People’s Choice Award: First place ($100) The Mae Barn: Megan Nefzger. Runner-up ($50) Bessie’s Parlor: Rebecca Lyons.
Technology Innovation Award: First place ($100) Second City Eats: Caitlin Theros. Runner-up ($50) Slate Planners: Grace Perrin, Anna Hall, Bailee Person.
Business Idea Pitch Contest: First place ($100): Anna Schulte and Mikaela Lighty. Runner-up ($75): Kayla Finn and Leah Blankespoor. Honorable mention ($50): Piper Head and Samantha Shirazi.