Two entrepreneurial teams, comprised of current and former University of Illinois students, were the proud winners of the V. Dale Cozad Business Plan competition last March.
Microlution Inc., founded by Andrew Honegger and Andy Philip, took home the open division prize of $20,000 for their small scale machine tool. This device bests the competition due to its ability to manufacture precision parts efficiently in-house for companies in the medical device and electronics industries.
Microlution had already established their company in Chicago when Cozad preparations began. “The most challenging part of organizing the business is presenting all the work we have been doing for years into a clear, compelling story for an unfamiliar reader,” said Honegger. “We entered all the business plan contests we were eligible for, to gain experience in front of VCs and angels. We very quickly learned where our plan was strong, what it lacked, and what we explained well.”
Microlution will use their winnings to move from a cramped 11’x6’ apartment office to a professional facility in the Fulton-Carroll Center Small Business Incubator in Chicago. They will also invest in equipment to help streamline several of the machines that they manufacture. In addition to their winnings, Microlution valued the intangible aspects of the Competition. “Every time we present our business plan, it gives us valuable experience for future presentations to investors and clients,” Honegger commented. “If we have our way, we will change the way that small parts are made and how people think about manufacturing equipment.”
In the Social Division, the prize was won by innovative start-up company Ambient Inc., founded by Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman, who received $10,000 for their work with the physically disabled. Ambient’s technological breakthrough allows handicapped patients to communicate through a hardware device worn (called “Audeo”), which translates unspoken thoughts by processing neurological activity at the throat. The device has already undergone human subject testing, thanks to a partnership with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
When asked how the business plan competition benefited their company, Ambient team member David Osorio explained, “We were forced to really concentrate on the market research and strategic decisions that will make the difference between the success and failure of our cause: What kind of disabilities should be our primary focus? How can we keep our product affordable, while ensuring we have the capital to keep improving the technology?” Cozad workshops also provided Ambient with exposure to helpful mentors whose feedback helped improve Ambient’s business plan and presentation.
Ambient founders stated that their funding will go towards further developing the Audeo technology and traveling to rehabilitation centers. “We hope our technology will give people back their ability to communicate, allowing their profound ideas to change the world,” Callahan said.
For more information about participating in the Cozad Competition, including the schedule of entries for this year’s Competition, please visit the Cozad website