St. Olaf College | News

Sixth annual Ole Cup showcases student ingenuity

At the sixth annual Ole Cup, 10 teams of St. Olaf College students pitched their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of judges.

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

Tari Mwendamberi ’19 took first place, and a prize of $10,000, for Panapa, a business that replaces the handwritten signs used by many Zimbabwean small business owners with an online platform, connecting them to previously unattainable customers.

Måttiås Køstøv ’20, Joud Haidar ’22, and Holly Smith ’20 took second place, and a prize of $5,000, for Sofia’s Pocket, which aims to bring equality to the fashion industry by creating fashionable and functional women’s pants with deep pockets.

Hesham Amin ’20 took third place, and a prize of $3,000, for Blue Infrastructure, which provides contractors and construction companies access to a quality workforce through an innovative platform that integrates geolocation, employee communication, scheduling, and a payroll system.

An additional $5,000 is awarded to the student with the top social venture — this year that was Sid Konneh ’21. His venture, AION, Inc., is seeking to eradicate maternal and infant mortality in Sierra Leone using drones to deliver maternal delivery kits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

“I am so impressed with the hard work, creativity, and grace under pressure that our students brought to the Ole Cup,” says Piper Center Associate Director of Entrepreneurship and Outreach Margaret Bransford. “We look forward to continuing to support these ventures as they move into the next stage of their development.”

The keynote speaker at this year’s Ole Cup was alumna Kate Tecku Field ’10, who built a multi-million dollar business and pitched it to investors on the hit TV show “Shark Tank.” She shared what she’s learned along the way.

Field also served on the panel of 16 judges, who hailed from business sectors ranging from tech to marketing.

“The judges were thoughtful and enthusiastic while continuing to demonstrate how Oles help Oles. They were ready and willing to spend time to provide feedback and help our entrepreneurs make connections,” Bransford says.

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. In its first five years, the Ole Cup has helped launch successful businesses like JonnyPops, Red Foods, Teranga Strings, and the Ole Thrift Shop.

In addition to being a great experience for students, the Ole Cup is also a fun event to watch. Take a moment to watch the archived stream of the April 27 competition below.