Topper Tank ends pitch submissions tonight


Students have the opportunity to go in front of the “sharks” of WKU to see if their business proposals will leave them sinking or swimming to the top.

This year’s Topper Tank Elevator Pitch Competition will take place April 19 at 4 p.m. in Grise Hall, room 240.

The entry deadline for the competition ends TUesday at 11:59 p.m. Upon entering their elevator pitch ideas, students will be given the chance to come before a panel of judges and share a business idea within 60 to 90 seconds — the length of an elevator ride.

“In entrepreneurship, it’s common,” Whitney Peake, vitale professor of entrepreneurship and assistant professor of management, said. “You never know when you’ll be in an elevator with someone important.”

The competition plays on the television show “Shark Tank.” The context of “Shark Tank” is that entrepreneurs pitch their new business ideas and concepts to “sharks.” The “sharks,” in this sense, are high-profile individuals with backgrounds entrenched in business.

“If they can convince even one rich ‘un that their idea is sound, they can make a deal right there — but it’s just as likely the millionaires will, one by one, say ‘I’m out’ until the contestant is left with nothing but a week’s supply of facial egg,” Tom Shales, Washington Post columnist, wrote of “Shark Tank” in a 2009 column.

Although Topper Tank has not received many entries at this point in time, Dawn Bolton, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and assistant professor of management, said they are expecting many more to arrive before the event’s deadline.

“We hope that students have fun with this competition,” Bolton said. “Any student can enter.”

Peake clarified an exception; students cannot enter if their idea involves anything that is illegal.

“We usually wait to look at them before deadline because we don’t want to seem biased,” Peake said. “The only thing we don’t allow is anything that could potentially be illegal.”

In the fall, Topper Tank is typically used for students who are potential candidates for the WKU Business Plan Competition, Bolton said.

“We are working right now with three students’ teams headed to a state business plan competition,” she said. “We encourage those who do well in Topper Tank to enter the Business Plan Competition.”

This spring, the center is using Topper Tank as a way to give entrepreneurial students a chance to present and launch their ideas.

“Every student will receive feedback,” Peake said, “even if they don’t win.”

Many professors and local entrepreneurs will be hosts for this event so students can receive high-quality feedback from those who are experienced in the field.

“Our center’s motto is ‘Making Connections to and for Entrepreneurial Students,’” Bolton said. “Topper Tank is one fun way to do that.”

Prizes in the past consisted of a $500 reward; prizes for this year, however, have yet to be set.

As the deadline approaches, judges continue to hope that budding entrepreneurs will submit their applications and pitch their ideas even if the pitch doesn’t result in a win.

Those interested in becoming a part of this event can send their ideas to [email protected], and the winners will be chosen the night of the Elevator Pitch Competition. All undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to apply.