Husker students collaborate to create businesses at 48-Hour Challenge

· 5 min read

Husker students collaborate to create businesses at 48-Hour Challenge

About 20 students pose for a photograph on the main staircase of Howard L. Hawks Hall.
Murengezi Atali Benimana | Business
Huskers from across campus competed in the 48-Hour Challenge Feb. 15-17 in Howard L. Hawks Hall.

Twenty-three University of Nebraska–Lincoln students participated in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s 48-Hour Challenge Feb. 15-17. The event allows student teams of three to six to develop and pitch business ideas for the chance to win cash prizes.

“The 48-Hour Challenge is a unique opportunity for students to stretch themselves and find out how far they can go with a business idea in just a few days,” said Samantha Fairclough, associate director of the center and associate professor of practice in management. “Teams naturally form around compelling concepts, and students are pushed beyond their comfort zones to find data and potential customers to validate their product idea. Feedback from community mentors is a key part of the process, helping them refine their business models and fostering connections that extend beyond the event.”

The competition is open to students of any major at the university. Students represented the College of Business, College of Engineering, College of Journalism and Mass Communications and Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

The challenge winners, listed alphabetically by place with their year in school/graduation year, major(s) and hometown, are:

First place

Street Eats, a designated food truck park in Lincoln

  • Jonathan Gerdes, senior, civil engineering, Lincoln
  • Brennon Overbeek, senior, computer science, Lincoln
  • Paige Perrone, May 2023 graduate, advertising and public relations, Papillion
  • Mohanendra Siddha, graduate student, computer science, Visakhapatnam, India
  • Kyran Thomas, senior, accounting, Lincoln
  • Andrew Wellman, senior, accounting, Waco, Nebraska

Second place

FOODI, a platform that connects foodies to local restaurants

  • Micah Fullinfaw, junior, emerging media arts, Omaha
  • Shahd Khourshed, freshman, computer science, Lincoln
  • Eddie Sicilia, senior, Clifton Builders management and marketing, Cancún, Mexico
  • Braden Starck, junior, Clifton Builders management and finance, Edwardsville, Illinois
  • Divyn Williams, senior, business administration, Omaha
  • Maci Wilson, senior, computer science, Omaha

Third place

BitVoyage, an interest-based travel booking website equipped with artificial intelligence

  • Alexah Fort, junior, emerging media arts, Sidney, Nebraska
  • Benjamin Frasier, sophomore, computer science, Omaha
  • Hannah Gish, sophomore, emerging media arts, Lincoln

“Participating in the 48-Hour Challenge showed me how my skills are compatible with those of other students,” said Micah Fullinfaw, a senior emerging media arts major from Omaha. “I learned how important it is to work with people of different backgrounds and skill sets.”

Five young men and a young woman hold up a trophy.
Murengezi Atali Benimana | Business
The Street Eats team celebrated its first-place finish.

Fullinfaw pitched an idea for a smart pantry on the competition’s first day, then found five students to join his team.

“Over the two days, we constantly pivoted our idea until we landed on a new, solid business plan,” he said. “Restaurants would pay to be featured on an app called FOODI, and users would connect with each other over their pursuit of finding new restaurants.”

Competitors could leverage the expertise of entrepreneurs in person or via Zoom. Among the mentors was Emily Kist, a 2022 Husker alumna who works for Nelnet in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Participating in new business startup competitions is so important for students because it teaches them how to navigate the framework of starting a new venture,” she said. “They get to practice things like customer discovery, market research, storytelling, building a pitch deck and more, which are the most essential steps to starting a company.”

Jonathan Gerdes, a senior civil engineering major from Lincoln, participated in the challenge to push his skills and create a viable business within a limited timeframe. He worked with Street Eats, an event production company that strategically gathers food trucks in a centralized location to offer amenities from entertainment to food and beverages.

A woman speaks to three young women and two young men, all seated at a table.
Murengezi Atali Benimana | Business
Stephanie Dinger, vice president of small business banking at Union Bank, mentored students.

“A significant amount of time was dedicated to understanding our customers and their problems,” Gerdes said. “This provided a greater likelihood of devising a viable and effective solution. Our cohesive strength was rooted in respect for individual competencies, facilitating a collaborative evaluation of all aspects of our business. This approach enabled us to reach a consensus, effectively addressing challenges and contributing to our success.”

The 48-Hour Challenge helps students prepare for the next competition in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s signature series: the 37th Annual New Venture Competition, April 16 and 18. Open to all undergraduate and graduate students at the university, the contest allows students to pitch their business ideas for the chance to win a share of $47,500 and an additional $25,000 from the Husker Venture Fund, which provides early-stage capital to Nebraskan startups.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is a hub for students of all majors who want to pursue their ideas for a business; own a franchise or take over their family business; or explore career options. Learn more.

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