College students and cheap, easy-to-prepare food. They just go together.
So it’s only fitting that an Eastern Kentucky University student won the 2014 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Collegiate Business Concept Challenge competition for his business venture idea centered on – you might have guessed it – ramen noodles.
Colin Elrod, a junior international business major from Richmond, earned a $1,000 cash prize after pitching an idea for a new business venture, “Mochi,” a casual-style restaurant that serves fresh, locally-sourced food as an alternative to traditional fast food.
“While most people are familiar with ramen noodles as a cheap, college student meal, we intend to provide the type of high-quality, customizable ramen common in Japan,” Elrod declared in his business proposal. “Our customers will have the option to create their own ramen based on the choice of noodles, broths and toppings.”
The idea was one of 18 business concepts presented by student teams from six Kentucky colleges and universities at this year’s Collegiate Business Concept Challenge (CBCC). The competition is a component of the annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards program, held Sept. 8 at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, and encourages student entrepreneurs to build their skills as the region’s next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The idea came to Elrod when he and a cousin were looking for somewhere to eat in downtown Chicago and realized there were no ramen shops.
He entered the competition hoping to get valuable input on his idea. Elrod received overwhelmingly positive feedback and much more.
Kevin Cumiskey, instructor in EKU’s Department of Management, Marketing and International Business, served as Elrod’s faculty adviser.
“It was a pleasure to work with Colin and the CBCC,” Cumiskey said. “It was my first experience working with the CBCC, and I viewed it as a great opportunity for students to develop an entrepreneurial spirit. The CBCC provides individuals with the confidence and belief it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur.”
Elrod said Cumiskey was “a big help. He looked over all my business plans and helped me steer things toward making sense.”
Now a client of EKU’s Business Accelerator (bizaccelerator.eku.edu) in the University’s Business and Technology Center, through which he is receiving additional guidance (as well as office space) as he moves his plan forward, Elrod is buoyed by the award that served to “validate” his business concept.
Elrod’s only prior exposure to the restaurant business was a five-month stint working at a Japanese restaurant in Lexington, so he has also counseled with a Richmond restaurateur to gain even more practical insights.
The 2006 Madison Central graduate, son of Preston and Carol Mochizuki-Elrod, plans to enter his concept in more competitions, including the IDEA State U competition next Spring, when he also heads to one of EKU’s partner institutions, Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan for a semester to enhance his International Business studies.
CBCC Committee Chairman Jim Tackett said the increased interest among the region’s students, faculty, and colleges and universities in participating in the CBCC “further illustrates the importance of entrepreneurship in today’s world. This competition provides an opportunity for students to pitch an idea and receive valuable feedback from those in the field who may truly have a role in the concept’s future success. We are growing our own entrepreneurs!”
The CBCC is presented in partnership with EKU’s College of Business and Technology, Kentucky Highlands Investment Cooperative, the Center for Rural Development, Berea College’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good, and Lindsey Wilson College’s Entrepreneurship Center.
For more information about EKU’s International Business program, visit www.eku.edu/academicspotlight/international-business-program.
Photo caption: From left are: Dr. Tom Erekson, dean of EKU’s College of Business and Technology; Ray Moncrief, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation; Colin Elrod, winner of the 2014 Collegiate Business Concept Challenge; Brett Traver, executive director, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation; Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO, The Center for Rural Development; and EKU President Michael Benson.
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