By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
It’s been a year since the PristineCal team competed in the 2012 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup, Oklahoma’s statewide collegiate business plan competition.
PristineCal, a finalist in the graduate division, won the interview competition in their industry category and team leader Stacey Brandhorst won the pitch competition.
After graduating from Oklahoma State University, Brandhorst and Rachel Mui, another team member, took part-time jobs and went to work to turn PristineCal into an actual business.
“The Governor’s Cup was a catalyst,” Brandhorst said. “It gave us confidence. We learned about resources. It also gave us seed capital to help pay for our testing and website. Still, it’s been a lot more difficult than we thought. We’ve had every entrepreneurial pitfall you can think of, from technology challenges to investors who said they would invest and then didn’t.”
Using a revolutionary technology developed at OSU by Dr. Allen Apblett, PristineCal will provide the first-ever heavy metal and strontium free commercial grade calcium powder.
i2E kept PristineCal on our radar screen. When we started the Oklahoma Proof of Concept Center to commercialize university-based technologies, PristineCal became a client.
The Oklahoma Proof of Concept Center “has helped us get more in touch with our customer base, improve our costs and metrics, and fine tune our business model.” Brandhorst said. “i2E also connected us with a mentor in the chemical industry with startup experience, a whole Rolodex of contacts, and years of expertise.”
Brandhorst and Mui are averaging about 15 contact calls per week, learning where PristineCal’s products best fit into the value chain. In the Governor’s Cup, they had a 60-page plan that focused on calcium supplements. Now they are down to a single sheet of paper with nine prioritized action items and focused on calcium powder.
“From the Governor’s Cup to now, you might not recognize the company,” Brandhorst said. “We’ve made a lot of good strides.”
i2E programs like the Oklahoma Proof of Concept Center and Governor’s Cup improve entrepreneurs’ opportunity to succeed. The Proof of Concept Center provides the focus and frame to take a breakthrough technology through market identification and solutions to job creation. The Governor’s Cup lets college students experience firsthand both what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur as well as the potential rewards that await entrepreneurs who succeed.
And, with companies like PristineCal, the Governor’s Cup sometimes even produces actual companies.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].
DID YOU KNOW? Oklahoma has gained more than 20 small businesses from the Governor’s Cup Competition.