Horticulture seniors win quick pitch competition

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fran Benne | Design and Communications Specialist, Agronomy and Horticulture

Brittney Cihal

Brittney Cihal  |  Photo by Fran Benne

A pair of horticulture seniors were among the top three winners in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Engler Quick Pitch with a Twist competition, April 13, at the Firethorn Resort in Lincoln. Brittney Cihal and Kelsey Foster, both set to graduate this May, each won $1,000.

Nebraska undergraduate students competed in the quick pitch preliminary rounds April 11 at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum on East Campus. Students had the opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial, communication and presentation skills through a short, quick-pitch proposal for a new business venture, which they delivered to a panel of entrepreneurial-minded judges from the area.

Presentations were judged on the competitors’ ability to address the key components of a start-up business venture, answer the judges’ questions regarding their venture and present their idea passionately, creatively, clearly and concisely.

Cihal and Foster were among the nine chosen to present in the final round two days later, and they were selected as two of the three eventual winners. Lindsey Sabatka, an agribusiness major, was also a winner.

Cihal, who hails from Valparaiso, Nebraska, pitched an alcoholic bakery business with alcohol-infused baked goods called Drinkin’ Desserts. She began the business a few months after she turned 21 and plans to expand and continue after graduation.

“My bakery business will be a side job until it takes off and hopefully someday become a full-time job,” she said.

Cihal, who is advised by agronomy and horticulture associate professor Kim Todd, will earn a degree in horticulture with a landscape design option. Following graduation she will begin working full-time as a designer at Campbell’s Nursery in Lincoln.

When asked about her experience at the university, Cihal was quick to note the life-long friendships she made with students and faculty. “The teachers on East Campus are very helpful,” she said. “I can send a quick question or just start small talk with them.”

Kelsey Foster

Kelsey Foster  |  Photo by Fran Benne

Both Cihal and Foster are students in the Entrepreneurship 488 Business Management for Agricultural Enterprises course, taught by Dave Lambe, agronomy and horticulture associate professor of practice.

The ACE 10 class is a business-plan writing course focused on student business ideas. Students learn to write business plans, network with professionals and compose a set of financial statements projecting their costs and income over a five-year period. Students then pitch their ideas to bankers and investors, and present their plans to business professionals in the classroom.

Lambe has the class compete in either a business-plan competition or business-pitch competition, hosted by the College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship or the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program.

Cihal credits Lambe’s class for the inspiration to start her own business. “I chose a product that I love working with and wanted to add my own twist to,” she said.

After experimenting, she decided to take it to a friend’s 21st birthday party where she received a lot of positive reviews. “It inspired me to continue working with the product,” Cihal said.

Foster pitched a business plan involving her family farm near Broken Bow, Nebraska, and expanding on the current native grass seed production operation to include forb seed production.

“By also growing wildflower seed, we can pursue more marketing opportunities,” Foster said. “My long-term goal is to enlarge the business to include my three sisters’ talents and interests as well as my own.”

But for now, Foster, who is advised by Lambe, is finishing up a horticulture degree with a production option and a minor in leadership and entrepreneurship. After graduation, she will return to the family farm to begin implementing expansion plans and work toward a Master Naturalist Certification.

For more information on the Entrepreneurship 488 Business Management for Agricultural Enterprises course, contact Dave Lambe.

Click here for the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and here for information on earning a degree in horticulture.

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