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Ten students given 10 minutes to compete for $10,000

By Trevor Anderson
trevor.anderson@shj.com
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Published: April 25, 2013 
 

Wofford senior Joseph McMillan, founder and president of Spartanburg-based Junk Matters LLC, claimed the top prize Wednesday night during the school's “Ten students, Ten minutes, $10,000” competition.

The expo-style event showcased The Space at Wofford's Mungo Center for Professional Excellence on Evins Street, as well as the work of nearly 50 students.

McMillin and nine of his schoolmates presented their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of judges that included five business leaders during the high-energy event modeled after ABC's hit series “Shark Tank.”

To illustrate his company's commercial zero-waste program, McMillin, who quit Wofford's football team last year to launch Junk Matters, used real garbage as a prop. Although some in the audience were left holding their breath, the judges didn't trash his presentation.

He received $5,000 and a year's worth of rent free office space at the Greenville-based business accelerator The Iron Yard LLC's new operation in downtown that will open this June.

“It feels very good to win,” McMillin said. “Everyone did a fantastic job. I feel very lucky. It will be a big help to me.”

McMillin, of Inman, said he will use the winnings to continue to grow his consulting business and reserve fund.

Students participating in the competition have produced projects, products and businesses they developed through Wofford's Impact and Launch programs.

Impact is a competitive four-year scholarship program offered to incoming and current students that teaches new essential skills, such as design thinking, entrepreneurship and a consultative approach to problem solving through experience.

Launch is the college's entrepreneurial group that provides guidance and expertise to help students from all backgrounds develop their business ideas, formulate a business plan and organize their own companies.

Judges included Pete Barth, founder of The Iron Yard, Nate Harceg, a Wofford graduate and assistant marketing manager for Arkansas-based Walmart Stores Inc., Jordana Megonigal, editor-in-chief of Greenville-based Black Box Magazine, Grant Peacock, real estate developer and former member of Wofford's board of trustees, and Chad Williamson, director of the Noble Institute in Little Rock, Ark.

“(The students) did amazingly well,” said Scott Cochran, dean of the Mungo Center. “Not just for college students, but for anyone. They were on stage in front of highly aggressive, competitive business professionals presenting to perfection. The learning that went on here is a very tough thing to duplicate.”

McMillin was the top winner in the Launch category followed by Mallory Jones, with her clothing and design business Bumblebees, and Chesnee native Grace Wallace, with her stationary company WritefullyHis LLC.

In the Impact category, Michelle Green, Sarah Grace Keaveny, and Anna Grace Hall won the top prize with their weekly after-school program Let's Read. They were followed by freshman Nancy Ford, with Set in Motion, a Christian ministry that provides bicycles and Bibles to individuals around the world, and freshman Holten Fields, who is developing his own zombie-themed first-person shooter video game.

Emily Bacher, a junior, was selected as the fan favorite for her Best Buddies Wofford program, which includes 20 students who partner with local organizations, such as Special Olympics and the Carolina Miracle League, to spend time with young athletes.

“They were phenomenal,” Peacock said. “They never ceased to amaze me with their poise and enthusiasm. Each one of them believed in their product and company.”

Jones said the experience helped her to “mobilize” her concept and encouraged her that there is a market out there for her business.

“It's exciting,” said junior Callie Taylor, who presented her marketing and branding company Calhoun Construction. “You just don't get to wake up and do something like this every day. I feel privileged to have access to such an awesome education. It's something very few people get to experience.”

Under a large expo tent set up on Evins Street, students not participating in the competition showed off the fruits of their labor at vendor-style tables.

Wofford senior Sharon Guffy presented her project that was focused on helping middle school children learn about career paths related to different subjects.

“It's really interesting to see how things have evolved over the past four years,” Guffy said. “I feel like The Space has given us more purpose and we get to have more interaction with the community. It helps us branch out. It's good for us to get out of what we call the Wofford bubble.”

At The Space, students can launch their business ideas through mentoring, networking, project-based experience, and consulting and project management.

“(In the competition) we only got to see the work of 10 of the amazing students that walk through the doors here,” said Jeremy Boeh, assistant director of The Space. “We are proud to come to work here every day.”

Courtney Shelton, director of The Space, said Wednesday's event capped off an amazing year.

“It's about learning and helping them get ready for the next step,” she said.

For more information, visit: www.wofford.edu.

Competition winners and prizes:

Launch Program

1st place: Joseph McMillin, Junk Matters LLC
-$5000 and one year of office space at The Iron Yard LLC in Spartanburg

2nd place: Mallory Jones, Bumblebees
-$1,000 and legal counseling

3rd place: Grace Wallace, WritefullyHis LLC
-$1,000 and marketing with Carrot Creative

Impact Program

1st place: Michelle Green, Sarah Grace Keaveny and Anna Grace Hall; Let's Read
-$2,000

2nd place: Nancy Ford, Set in Motion
-$1,000

3rd place: Holten Fields, 20/20
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