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An entrepreneur in training

November 21, 2017

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After pitching an invention to one of the executives on TV’s Shark Tank, presenting to Saint Mary’s faculty was a piece of cake.

Stephany Beck ’21 might only be a freshman, but the Entrepreneurship and Marketing double major is already finding ways to enhance her pitching skills, network with area professionals, and learn how one day she could put her name on an innovative product that could help others.

Beck first got her entrepreneurial feet wet while she was a junior in high school in Oshkosh, Wis. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh sponsored a business pitch competition, and the grand prize was an opportunity to present for Damond John (of Shark Tank) at the Oshkosh Area Women’s Foundation banquet.

Beck and her two high school friends pitched the Klick-a-Kane.

Beck came up with the concept after volunteering at a hospice in her hometown. One of the other hospice volunteers, Ruby, told Beck that finding a spot to store her walking cane in her vehicle was often a hassle, so Beck devised a safe and convenient holder. Klick-a-Kane is a C-shaped device that attaches securely to the center console with Velcro and firmly holds a cane close by, yet out of the way. “I worked with Ruby to develop the idea, and I had her test it to be sure it worked,” Beck said.

Beck’s student group, voted “most likely to succeed” in the Oshkosh competition, earned the honor of meeting with Damond John, who Beck described as friendly and encouraging. “He’s a personable guy,” she said. “He came in jeans and a blazer. He started as a small business owner. He said my friends and I did a great job presenting and he encouraged us to keep pursuing our dreams.”

Carrying her idea forward in Saint Mary’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition — sponsored by the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies last week — Beck again did well, placing first overall, as well as winning in the “social impact” category.

Earlier in the fall, Beck was also one of three students who participated in Start Up Weekend, a national program sponsored by Saint Mary’s Kabara Institute and Collider Core of Rochester. Beck was part of a team of entrepreneurs who collaborated on a business plan for 54 hours.

“We were in the midst of high school students, young professionals, pre-med students at Mayo Clinic, and other professionals,” Beck said. Olivia Osterbauer ’18 and Beck worked on Farm to Kitchen, a company that brings farm-fresh products to your table. They presented their idea of a to-go box to a panel of judges and received second-place honors.

“We distributed surveys at the farmer’s market and interacted with different people to do market research,” she said. “I did the marketing and layout and design of our presentation, and they said our layout was the best because it was clear and concise.”

Beck has also attended presentations by various campus speakers the Kabara Institute has hosted, and she believes these experiences are invaluable to a young entrepreneur.

“I like the culture here,” she said. “The connections I’ve made through the Kabara Institute have been valuable and the opportunities have opened my eyes,” she said.

Her dream is to one day own her own business like a clothing boutique and/or to work in marketing for the Green Bay Packers.

Until then, she plans to complete the 4+1 B.A./M.B.A. program, which was one of the main reasons she chose Saint Mary’s.

And she won’t give up on her dream of one day marketing a product, like Klick-a-Kane.

“Entrepreneurship is about letting your creativity flow and seeing what you come up with,” she said. “Entrepreneurship is about finding your passion. And your ideas can also benefit others.”