ZuVenturez participants compete in semifinals

With ZuVenturez’s semifinal event coming to a close, seven teams have been named finalists and will move on in the competition.

The ZuVenturez program debuted in the spring semester of 2014. The nine-week series of workshops allows students to make their innovation a reality and receive coaching from mentors who are part of successful businesses.

“It’s fun to see so much pent-up energy around growing ideas and to build faith-based ways of developing a platform for growing businesses,” said Janice Orlando, chair of the Board of Innovators.

Since its inception, ZuVenturez has expanded consistently in size and scope. The number of participants has more than tripled—from 30 to more than 100—causing the department to hire more coaches.

Accordingly, ZuVenturez has grown more competitive with increasingly ambitious projects being pitched each semester. This round, many students have already managed to solidify patents and work with manufacturers. Agapé, the emerging luxury organic perfume company, brought samplings of products to their pitches. The company seeks to empower men and women in “natural, authentic beauty.”

Faith integration is of paramount importance in the entrepreneurial program. Sophomore business management major Drew Dierickx actually got the name Agape—”all-encompassing fatherly love”—through motivation from prayer. “There’s so much inauthentic beauty in America [that] is, in reality, unattainable,” Dierickx said. “You were born in the image of God.”

Nate Lu, director of the Office of Innovation, spoke on the significance of instilling a “Kingdom focus” in the program.

“There’s a reason that God gave you an opportunity, [and] you need to respond to that,” Lu said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Why does God continue to open doors for me?’”

Orlando said that she believes APU students have “a heart for giving.”

For the Zuventurez platform, it is important “to come alongside those passions and create sustainability so there’s a way for those missions to grow and create a lot of good Kingdom-focused work,” Orlando said.

For James Feller, passion plays a key role in the program. Feller, one of the minds behind the aerial photographic company Perfect Pixels, explained how Zuventurez is helping make his hobby of flying picture drones a reality.

“I owned a couple drones, and I fell in love with them,” Feller said. “My parents told me that if I love them so much, I just [have to] find a way to make money with them.”

Feller’s teammate, freshman pre-engineering major Madi Hunter, explained the benefit of Zuventurez for participants outside the School of Business and Management.

“[We] practice being professional; [we’ve] learned all about financials,” Hunter said. “We’re not business majors, we’re techie people.”

Lu said students of all majors are welcome to compete in the competition.

“In the past, a lot of people [have] assumed that a business plan competition is solely for business students,” Lu said. “That’s not true at all. [We’re] starting to see computer science majors working with design students, [and] communication students working with accounting majors.”

“We don’t have a majority of business people in this system because everyone has great ideas,” Orlando said.

Lu said Zuventurez has sometimes been likened to the television business competition show “Shark Tank.”

“They’re very aggressive and opportunistic when they look at ideas and business plans,” Lu said. “We bring that perspective, [but] our goal is to equip our students with the resources and knowledge to be the light in those places.”

The business plan competition will conclude the final round the night of Nov. 17 in the UTCC. Finalized pitches will be made in front of a panel of judges, who will then nominate the winners. The team that wins first place will be awarded $15,000 to start its business, as well as $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place.

“There are similarities and differences to Shark Tank,” Dr. Annie Tsai, vice president of Alumni, Vocation and Innovation said. “The similarity is the intensity and real feedback you get from investor-type judges, as well as a real cash prize of $15,000. The difference is [that] APU is not here to benefit from students. We do not take equity. APU is here to help students dream, build and launch their Christian ventures.”

In addition to Perfect Pixels and Agape, finalist include Lord’s Light, featuring high-technology lightbulbs; Precept Me, a mobile application for medical students; Thanks!, an online donation aggregator; Thread Safe, antibacterial medical garments and Urban Vinyl, wood-cased headphones.

This article was written on Nov. 16 prior to the Zuventurez final competition on Nov. 17.