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MSU celebrates success in student entrepreneurship

June 6, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

Parker Stewart is a true competitor.

As CEO of Night and Day Vending, which distributes breathalyzer vending machines called IntoxBoxes, Stewart has entered several student entrepreneurship competitions in association with Mississippi State University. Jesus J. Valdez, a marketing research associate with MSU’s Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship, said Stewart not only placed first in the MSU Investing in Innovation’s Student Elevator Pitch Competition, but also third in the student division of the Mississippi Technology Alliance’s New Venture Challenge in Jackson.

Valdez said Stewart’s competitive spirit stretches across the business spectrum and beyond.

“Every competition (Stewart has) been in, he’s placed in, which speaks volumes,” Valdez said. “Last night, there was a competition in bowling with a lot of student entrepreneurs, and he came in second.”

Stewart and other entrepreneurs working with MSU gathered Saturday to celebrate their successes and gather feedback for future competitions at a banquet Wednesday at McCool Hall.

Abby Thompson, research associate with MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, said the MTA competition hosted 19 student competitors from across the state. Ten of those competitors came from MSU, she said, and MSU students took first, second and third place. Techsterminators, led by CEO Christian Brown, came in first; Innometrix, led by CEO Ben Weed, came in second and Stewart’s Night and Day Vending came in third.

Thompson said MSU also had top competitors in MTA’s pre-revenue division. The Juliet Collective, led by owners Robbie Spears and Chase Neal, placed second, and Sano Chemical, led by founder Steven Pruett, came in third, she said.

“They’re getting direct feedback today on how to improve their business,” Thompson said at the banquet. “They want to learn what they can do better. In addition, we’re celebrating the fact that we did so well.”

Gerald Nelson, OETT director, said Stewart and Brown, by virtue of taking first place in statewide competitions, are automatically entered in the National Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Conference Nov. 1-3 in Chicago, Ill.

“They automatically get into the final flights,” Nelson said. “The others have to submit a video on Youtube. We expect to have four to six people representing four to six companies, including the two first-place winners.”

Brown said he is looking forward to the competition. His business, Techsterminators, is an online consumer electronics repair company, and he said he is grateful for the support the MSU OETT and the MSU Entrepreneurship Center have given him.

“I’ve enjoyed this entire ride,” Brown said. “Entrepreneurship is what I love to do, and we get to utilize that on a national scale thanks to the entrepreneurship center.”

Stewart said the competition is just one reason he’s excited to go to Chicago in November. While his current goals for expansion focus on Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, he said Chicago could pose unique business opportunities for Night and Day Vending.

“I could see it as a great opportunity to scope out some locations to place the machines and identify a manufacturer and distributor in that area,” Stewart said. “I anticipate strong competition and look forward to competing with so many entrepreneurs. I feel with the help of the entrepreneurship advisory board, we have a strong chance of placing in the competition. I would just like to thank the advisory board at Mississippi State, the entrepreneurship center and the OETT for helping to guide students in building and growing startup companies, and I’d like to thank the MTA for providing a means for students like me to put our ideas out there.”

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