GRCC student part of 1st-place team in MWest Challenge

April 22, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. A Grand Rapids Community College student teamed up with three students from Kendall College of Art and Design to win first place in the MWest Challenge, a student venture competition. 

GRCC student Jake Dabkowski teamed up with Aiden Wysocki, Matthew Veenhoven and Jonathan Moroney to pitch their idea for Camper Medication. The team won $4,000 for their first-place pitch for a business that would help summer camps handle medications.

Through MWest Challenge, students can develop and grow new ventures based on their own ideas. This year, teams from nine West Michigan colleges and universities competed for $12,000. The competition also includes workshops and opportunities for students to network with investors.

You can see Camp Medication Management’s winning presentation on YouTube.

“The MWest Challenge was a fantastic experience that allowed me to broaden my horizons, receive valuable feedback on our ideas, and see what other amazing things students across West Michigan are working on!” Dabkowski said. “There were a lot of great business minds at the MWest Challenge, and hearing what they had to say about our idea -- both constructive criticism and validation -- will help us moving forward.

“The challenge also provided us with a platform to be able to spread the word about our idea that we are so passionate about, and GRCC has been very supportive of me through that. Moving forward, participating in the MWest Challenge has given me the confidence to push through the last few years of college and to continue developing our business into becoming a reality. The $4,000 gives us a solid start as we work towards our dream of helping summer camps throughout the country!"

Three other GRCC students competed this year in the showcase poster round:  

  • Njuguna Gathungu, with Healthy Vines, a farm-to-table organic restaurant.
  • Kalyssa Fischer, with Healing Nails, which heals broken and damaged.
  • Jana Gryzan, with Chrissy's Delightful Sweets n' Treats, a unique bakery concept.

Gathungu got involved in the competition through classes with professor Felix Pereiro, head of the Business Department. Even though he did not win a prize this year, he still thought it was a very valuable experience.

“I was inspired and learned a lot from the other student presentations,” said Gathungu. “GRCC helped provide this opportunity. I am very grateful to Professor Pereiro for all the help I received from him over the many months preparing for this event. I can't wait to compete again at MWest Challenge next year.”

Pereiro points out that the students' MWest achievements are the culmination of hours of practice and preparation. 

“This is a special accomplishment for our students as they work toward their associate degree,” he said. “Jake, Njuguna, Kalyssa and Jana put in the hours necessary to compete against the very best college students in West Michigan – facing juniors, seniors and MBA students from top four-year universities in West Michigan -- and their work and dedication paid off.”

Teams were supported by Business Department faculty and staff, and students also received valuable help from other departments, Pereiro said. 

"Competitive events, such as MWest Challenge, help our GRCC students improve and polish their skills so they are better able to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive marketplace," he said. "They learn for themselves what entrepreneurs go through during the early startup stage and the hard work that goes into creating an outstanding executive summary and idea pitch."

GRCC's Business Department offers programs in accounting, business administration, management and supervision, and marketing and certificates in entrepreneurship and supply chain operations management. 

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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