“I always get nervous before going up in front of people, but this was all about something I’m passionate about, so it forced me to relax and be confident in myself,” said Kirby, who took first place out of 20 competitors in the event sponsored by Macomb Community College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).
Kirby, a Macomb business management major, heard about the competition in class and came up with a pitch to make headphone earbuds from an eco-friendly, plastic-like material made from mushrooms. He and the other participants were coached by CIE staff and received a tour of the Quicken Loans building in Detroit. They then pitched their ideas one at a time to a successful entrepreneur while riding an elevator, imitating a chance encounter that might happen in the business world. Selected as one of four finalists, Kelly then pitched on stage to four judges, earning first place and $500. He also received a few business cards from people interested in hearing more.
“It was a wonderful chance to network with professionals and get advice,” he said.
Kirby plans to continue toward a bachelor’s degree in business and hopes to create a functional prototype of his headphones in order to attract more funding. His advice for future participants is to rehearse a lot and choose something you’re passionate about.
“If you’re not passionate about your topic,” he said, “then why should anyone else be?”