St. Olaf College | News

Seventh annual Ole Cup convenes entrepreneurs virtually

The seventh annual Ole Cup — St. Olaf College’s student entrepreneurial competition — looked a little different this year. Students submitted virtual video pitches and were available for live, virtual judging and feedback during the April 25 event. Ten student teams participated — two teams joined us from around the world, one calling in from Northfield, Istanbul, and Berlin, and the other calling in from Belize. 

Four of those teams took away cash prizes that will help them turn their business ideas into reality.

Mattias Kostov ‘20, Dogukan Gunaydin ‘21, and Jermias Thiel ’23 took first place, and a prize of $10,000, for Scobium, a biotech business that uses bacterial cellulose to inexpensively manufacture textile products that cause little to no environmental damage and match the quality of leather.

Tia Schaffer ‘20 took second place, and a prize of $5,000, for Live Life Home Installations, which uses smart-home auto and entertainment to manifest a “technology world that revolves around family.”

Marie Kadurira ‘20 took third place, and a prize of $3,000, for Vasikana Vidu, which aims to address period poverty by providing alternative sustainable sanitary products to women in Zimbabwe.

An additional $5,000 is awarded to the student with the top social venture. This year the winner was Michael Paredes ‘22. His venture, OlaCoral, is a coral restoration project that uses fins from the invasive lionfish to create jewelry with a unique, Belizean twist and that donates a portion of the profits to rebuilding the reef.

The Ole Cup judges were impressed with the breadth of ventures that the students brought forth and the professionalism that students exhibited during the question and answer sessions. Students were given the opportunity to meet with individual judges in feedback sessions after the event as well. 

The switch to a virtual format was a challenge, but students took it in stride. “We received several messages from alumni and friends during the event expressing enthusiasm and support for our students,” says Associate Director of Entrepreneurship and Outreach Margaret Bransford. “Our students should be so proud — their hard work and ability to persevere under uncertainty will serve them well as they move forward on the Hill and beyond.”

The St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career hosts the Ole Cup, which provides current students with resources to help turn their business ideas into reality. Staff members advise students on their business plans and offer feedback on their pitches. The Piper Center also connects teams to a loyal network of Ole entrepreneurs and investors.

The Ole Cup was conceived by the late Brad Cleveland ‘82, CEO of Proto Labs, who wanted St. Olaf students to realize how much fun it can be to be an entrepreneur. The event is open to all St. Olaf students. In its first five years, it has helped launch successful businesses like JonnyPops and the Ole Thrift Shop. Each year the winner of the Ole Cup automatically qualifies for the semi-final round of the Minnesota Cup student division. 

In addition to being a great experience for students, the Ole Cup is also an enjoyable event to watch. Take a moment to watch the archived stream of the April 25 competition below.