Kuyper Teams Compete in Regional Business Competition at GRCC

Gregory Thomas was initially drawn to Kuyper College by the variety of classes offered in the Business Leadership program.

Now, after completing his second year as a student, he said those classes have topped his expectations.

“My favorite part is all the speakers our professors bring in” the Belleville, Mich., native said. “That gives us the opportunity to network with people who are already in the careers we want to pursue.”

Thomas is one of three Kuyper students, along with Danyel Bibbs and Herman Brown, who recently won third place in the Innovation Showcase round of the MWest Challenge, a West Michigan business pitch competition, held at Grand Rapids Community College in mid-April.

They were one of the dozens of teams from the schools in the West Michigan Colleges & Universities Group (Aquinas, Calvin, Cornerstone, Davenport, Hope, GRCC, Grand Valley, Kendall and Kuyper) who submitted the executive summaries required to participate.

Their venture, YuNatural Worldwide (YuNaturalWW), is a clothing brand focused on natural self-expression through fashion, and the trio has already made quite a few sales through platforms like Depop and Instagram.

Thomas said that participating in the competition was something he won’t soon forget.

“I enjoyed hearing all the other pitches and ideas from students around our ages and, obviously, coming out victorious with a $500 prize was nice too,” he added.

Entering the MWest Challenge is an exciting end to the academic year for students in Business 311, an entrepreneurship course that looks at successfully starting and running a business enterprise.

Conceptualizing their own businesses and pitching these ideas to an in-class panel of judges is a centerpiece of the class; after that, a selection of those teams is able to enter the MWest Challenge.

No matter which school they are from, each group that competes in the challenge must submit a three-page executive summary of their business idea. At least three judges then rate these summaries, and the average of those scores determines who makes the top rounds.

The competition process is something that Marc Andreas, Associate Professor of Business Leadership and the program’s director, says leaves a lasting impression.

“It’s such a memorable experience for our students. I’ve even had a number of conversations over the years with alumni, where this is the thing that they remember most out of their time at Kuyper,” he said, smiling.

Andreas, who also serves on the MWest steering committee, added that Kuyper teams have participated in the annual event nearly every year for the past 10, with four contenders from Kuyper advancing to the last stages of the event this year – YuNaturalWW and two others to the Innovation Showcase round and one to the final round.

That team – Mobile Cuts – included Ethan Seibert, brothers Elisha and Elijah Searcy, and Latrell

Jennings, who created an online platform for booking mobile barber services.

Their idea was to bring this kind of personal care directly to those who have the most difficulty accessing it, such as disabled individuals and those who lack transportation.

“As Christians, we understand that we are called here to serve, so we implemented that in our business,” Jennings said during their presentation. “We want to help our clients feel good about themselves and bring more joy into the world.”

Andreas loves that the MWest Challenge helps his students connect their business ambitions with their Christian call to serve others.

“It’s been a good experience for our students to consider that and then walk into a competition that doesn’t explicitly require it. It helps them see how unique Kuyper is in incorporating those things,” he said.

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