By Scott Meacham
Oklahoma’s Love’s Cup teams are making history that future generations will read about.
I am a history buff. I really enjoy reading about the events of our state and our country from years ago. While it is highly unlikely that I would ever sign up for a civilian trip to the moon, if time travel ever became a reality, I would at least investigate the possibility.
Lately, I have been enjoying some desk-chair time travel, writing about Oklahoma inventors and entrepreneurs, people like Wiley Post, inventor of the first pressurized flight suit, and Bob Dunn with his electric guitar.
Real World Simulation
And then, for the last two weeks, we at i2E have been elbow-deep with new entrepreneurs who are making entrepreneurial history of their own as the 2021 Love’s Cup statewide collegiate business plan competition came to a celebratory close.
The competition, which is made possible by the generous sponsorship of public and private entities, simulates the real world process of researching a market, writing a business plan, and making an investor presentation. In the 17-year history of this competition, nearly 2,500 college students have taken the challenge, being awarded nearly $2.1 million in cash, and $155,000 in scholarships.
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, a wonderful company with a wonderful story of Oklahoma entrepreneurship, is the signature sponsor.
“The passion and creativity flowing from these college students make us proud to sponsor the event each year,” Jenny Love Meyer, executive vice president, chief culture officer. “It is energizing to see that Oklahoma is in great hands through this next generation of business leaders. These young entrepreneurs continue to shine and reflect the entrepreneurial culture that’s in Love’s DNA.”
Oklahoma is in great hands. These teams have produced 750 innovative ideas from 36 Oklahoma campuses. More than 38 business plans have turned into scalable businesses and became i2E clients.
Love’s Cup teams are making history as they pitch their concepts.
One of 2021’s innovative business plans is Daedalus Droneworks, a team from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian University. (In Greek mythology, Daedalus discovered how to make men fly.) The team earned first place honors and a $20,000 prize in the High Growth Undergraduate Division.
Like so many entrepreneurial stories, theirs begins with a bit of serendipity.
Omar Wyman, quality engineer with a medical device company, and Avery Mayfield, a senior in engineering at University of Oklahoma, were in a coffee shop.
“We just started talking about drones, and we had this idea,” said Wyman. The idea was to design a generator built expressly for drones to overcome the inefficiencies and limitations of current battery technologies.
They had an idea and energy. They needed more talent, plus money for a prototype.
A Worthy Experience
Mayfield had heard about Love’s Cup from a previous Love’s Cup winner. He pulled in some other engineers and a business major. Wyman signed up to advise the team. They designed a hybrid engine that converts gasoline to electricity.
“We struggled with the business vocabulary,” Mayfield said. “Three of us plus Omar are engineers. This is a business competition. You can’t just get up and spit technical facts.”
The competition judges do not go easy on Love’s cup teams. These students practice and practice presenting their business plans.
The Daedalus Droneworks team learned the language and listened to mentors and coaches along the way.
“We really relied on the different stages of the competition to mold the business plan into a viable strategy. We were open to whichever idea was best,” Mayfield, the team leader said. “Even without winning, Love’s Cup is so worth it just for the experience, however, we are seriously considering making a prototype with our winnings.”
Oklahoma’s Love’s Cup teams are making history that our next generations will read about. We are so fortunate to have talent like this in our state.
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 support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at [email protected].