With 90 seconds on the clock, 16 students from the University of Northern Iowa set out to prove they have what it takes to sustain a successful business. Three walked away with seed money and valuable feedback for the next phase of their business ownership journey. The competition was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by UNI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC).

“The pitch experience was exhilarating!” said Nathan Crooker [Finance, ‘25], who placed first and won $1,000 to fund his venture, The Brain Freezer. “Being able to show my passion for entrepreneurship and serving people was really a reflective experience. It was a great opportunity for me to analyze my business growth, failures and successes.”

Nathan Crooker“Our main goal at The Brain Freezer is to provide high-quality shaved ice with exceptional service to our customers. I plan on utilizing the prize money for menu changes, obtaining a POS system, and completing additional research and development to increase the quality of my product. This award money will overall help my business by increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction,” he said.

Nathan’s brother, Davan Crooker, founder of DC Outdoor Services, placed second and won $600, while Skyler Ramsey, founder of Teal Phoenix, placed third and won $400.

The pitch competition was funded by the Schulze Family Foundation and the R.J. McElroy Foundation.

“Being able to tell a complete stranger the mission and vision of your company in 90 seconds is not an easy thing to do,” said Bart Schmitz, program manager at the UNI JPEC. “We tell the students that they just never know who they’re going to cross paths with. It’s likely that someone will invite you to share a business idea or concept and make a connection to take your business to the next level.” 

The UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) also celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week with additional events for UNI students and community entrepreneurs to connect, learn more about starting a business and compete for seed money.

Learn more about the UNI JPEC and UNI student entrepreneurs at jpec.uni.edu.