Students pitch business ideas at ninth annual Ole Cup
At the ninth annual Ole Cup, a panel of entrepreneurial alumni judged nine different business pitches presented by St. Olaf College students and awarded thousands of dollars in prize money.
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. Hosted each year by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, the entrepreneurial competition has helped launch successful businesses like JonnyPops, Red Foods, Teranga Strings, and the Ole Thrift Shop.
This year marked the first in-person Ole Cup since 2019, but the event retained the technology utilized during the pandemic so that two judges and one student presenter were able to participate virtually from locations across the globe.
This year’s alumni judges included Paul Ekholm ’76, Matt Schneider ’99, Mark Skeba ’05, Tina Rexing ’95, and Anthony Valiulis ’19.
Jordan Oberholtzer ’24 won the first place prize of $10,000 for his live-from-Italy pitch on Whiskey Woods, a custom drink glass smoking kit that allows consumers to easily smoke their liquors and cocktails. Judges said Oberholtzer’s proof of concept and business strategy as to how to make a profit were defining factors in awarding him the first place title. Oberholzer was the first venture to pitch virtually in an in-person Ole Cup while studying abroad.
“This is the way I first saw a whiskey glass smoked, done by my grandfather,” Oberholtzer says. “I saw this over 10 years ago and when my uncle told me there was a gap in the market for these products, I knew this was something I could pursue. It’s very exciting for me to be able to make a product that shows the world the way my grandpa smoked a glass.”
The second place prize of $5,000 went to support Psync.AI — a virtual platform designed to help therapists and their clients monitor treatment progress with the help of AI technology — presented by Abdou Ghanim ’23 and Saji Nammari ’23. Their pitch ended with a powerful call to action, “imagine a world where no one gives up on the care they need.”
An additional $5,000 Social Impact Prize was awarded to Aidan Lloyd ’24 and Giovanni Green ’23 for The Shop 1500, an extension to the already existing pop-up barbershop that will provide the on-campus haircut service tailored toward BIPOC students with a permanent location and updated equipment.
Gevorg Margaryan ’26 and David Yang ’26 earned the third place position and $3,000 for their pitch of Cord, a college-oriented ride-sharing platform.
In addition to receiving Piper Center feedback on individual business plans and support in connecting with relevant St. Olaf alumni, students were able to listen to keynote speaker Jazz Hampton, the CEO of TurnSignl, a tech company that provides drivers with the guidance of an attorney after being pulled over.
Oberholtzer will now move onto the semi-final round of the Minnesota Cup student division where the winner is awarded $30,000, and can compete for the Minnesota Cup Grand Prize of $50,000.