Last month, two Iowa State University seniors were announced champions at Western University’s Ivey HBA Business Plan Competition held in London, Ontario. Anthony House of software engineering and Jacob McClarnon of entrepreneurship paired up to compete against 17 other teams from the United States and Canada on January 25-26, 2019. Through three rounds of presentations, the ISU team pitched their way to first place and $15,000.
House and McClarnon partnered together to form their business, HomePainter, through an introduction by Iowa State’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The duo combined McClarnon’s business expertise within the painting sector and House’s coding and startup experience to launch their free, online platform, HomePainter. This site provides homeowners with quick painting estimates that can save both time and money; it also connects local painters to jobs, support and a reduced level of liability.
With their business proposal in hand, the founders were accepted into the 2018 CyStarters program, a summer-long accelerator program that helps students test ideas and grow their companies. McClarnon and House heard about the Ivey Business Plan Competition through program connections and decided to compete.
Reflecting on the past winners with ties to scientific research and humanitarian organizations, House said, “These people are changing the world. We’re painting it.”
Determined to set themselves apart, they presented HomePainter’s vision of superior online customer service and high quality painting. From their research, House and McClarnon knew they also needed to show growth and adaptability in each round of the competition.
“What’s cool is if you know your stuff, and you can stay confident, the judges can really feel that,” House said. “That is what makes the difference between the first- and second- place winners. That’s what we had to do.”
On the heels of their big win, McClarnon and House went on to represent their business at the Des Moines Home and Garden Show. Forward-thinking, they typically plan three months in advance. The next things on their radar are to work on development, bring on investment and hire new employees, including an Operations Manager to strengthen the business’s regional presence. After graduation in May, both seniors are ready to work and hope to invest in the business full-time.
Cyclones looking for similar opportunities can get involved a couple ways, including membership to the Entrepreneurship Club or by reaching out to Judi Eyles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Iowa State students can also apply to this summer’s CyStarter class by March 1, 2019. House says, “If students have a business, and they’ve got idea that they want to do, just get out there and do it.”