Stacey Brandhorst completed her MBA at Oklahoma State University in May 2012 and promptly declined all job offfers. Instead, she took a part-time job so she could devote as much time and energy as possible into launching a Stillwater startup called PristineCal.
“I took a flying leap into entrepreneurship,” she said.
Brandhorst and three other OSU graduate students wrote a business plan around the PristineCal concept for the 2012 Governor’s Cup business plan competition, winning the Interview portion and a $5,000 award in the healthcare category.
PristineCal is based on technology developed by Dr. Allen Apblett, a chemistry professor and researcher at OSU. The company uses Dr. Apblett’s technology to produce calcium ingredients for food and supplement manufacturing needs that are free of heavy metals and strontium, unlike any other calcium product currently on the market.
Joining Brandhorst in the startup is GovCup teammate Rachel Mui, who also declined several job offers after graduating to stay with PristineCal.
Brandhorst recently shared her thoughts on PristineCal and the Governor’s Cup experience. Here are excerpts:
Q: Where are you with PristineCal’s development?
A: PristineCal has continued to scale up production with the help of several very skilled chemical and mechanical engineers and established connections with food ingredient brokers. We have made some great leaps with market research that have helped us identify the best target markets, and are now making contact with our potential customers to ensure the product we have is what they are looking for. We hope to reach full production capacity by May.
Q: Talk about what that Interview experience was like and how it differed from your expectations going in.
A: We weren’t exactly sure what to expect going into the interview, but I remember it being much more relaxed than we anticipated; the judges were supportive and excited about our technology and really impressed that we were forgoing traditional career paths to launch the business. We were quite nervous because it was our first time doing an interview like this. We were able to sustain a really good flow of conversation, to the point where it didn’t feel like we were being interviewed and we were just sharing our business ideas.
Q: What differentiated PristineCal from other teams during the Interview process?
A: We have a proven, value-creating technology that has the opportunity to really shake up the market. We also had a dedicated team that was actually starting the business and not just doing this for competition’s sake. Knowing that the company is your livelihood makes it much easier to talk about because every question they asked us was something we’d talked about amongst ourselves in previous meetings.
Q: You also won the Pitch portion of the GovCup. How naturally did pitching the business plan come to you?
A: I love talking about our business, but I’ll be the first to admit that having the pitch recorded was nerve racking. I’ve always been comfortable with public speaking, but the pitch time limit forced me to really hone in on my key points so I could deliver something that was informative and left the listener wanting more details. You don’t have to sell the idea in the pitch, you just have to get them to agree to a meeting. Winning the pitch was an honor and an excellent capital injection for PristineCal.
Q: How would you describe the overall GovCup experience?
A: The competition led us to some great contacts and resources that we are now making full use of to launch the company.