Luther’s Erdman ‘Pitch Off’ competition finalists announced

May 9, 2019

Luther College will hold a “Pitch Off” competition featuring finalists for the 2019 Erdman Prize for Entrepreneurship  at 10 a.m. Friday, May 10, in Marty’s on the ground floor of the Dahl Centennial Union.

Three student entrepreneurs were selected as finalists to compete in a ‘Pitch Off’ competition held as part of the Luther College Student Symposium that will happen this Friday.

The students selected include Luther seniors Mini Finger and Joram Mutenge and Luther first-year Katla Michaelson. Finger’s pitch will be for her business, Mini’s Private Swimming Lessons, which offers private lessons to children of all abilities. Mutenge’s pitch will be for Teyapool, a pool table business in his home country of Zambia. Michaelson’s pitch will be forMichaelson Morgans, a horse camp for youth.

The staff judges for the “˜Pitch Off’ are Aaron Steffens, financial aid, and Tim Schweizer, Luther College professor of entrepreneurship and Birkestrand Economics and Management Chair. The guest judges for this event will be Luther alumni Brittany (Buczek) Todd, class of ’10, Jacob Johnson, class of ’04, and Ryan Stroschein, class of ’99.

Todd, owner of the Decorah business, Photography by Brittany, majored in music at Luther. After attempting several career paths, she returned to her love for photography. Within a few years, she turned what started as a $600 camera and a side hustle into a full-fledged career. She now runs a team of four photography assistants out of a downtown studio and is featured online and in print, including “Minnesota Bride Magazine,” “Wisconsin Bride Weddings” and “Southern Bride Real Weddings.”

Johnson, the founder of Innovosource, majored in biology and management at Luther and earned an MSMOT from the University of Minnesota. He has a passion for the creation of knowledge and relationship building in the innovation community. Currently Innovosource acts as a partner and support system to high-tech companies and investors to identify future technologies and startups and create innovation partnerships with research institutions for companies such as 3M and Medtronic. Johnson is also an author and contributor on multiple published reports on the topics related to his business.

Stroschein, founder of Upward Internet, majored in computer science and management. He entered the business world at the tail end of the “” bubble, securing a position at a business intelligence software startup, Information Advantage. It didn’t take long for him to set out on his own. After just a year of travelling the country consulting for someone else, he started his own consulting business, Upward Internet, Inc., which develops business intelligence and data warehouse solutions for major corporations. Other ventures that Stroschein has participated in include business intelligence startups, Organic BI and Birch Analytics as well as real estate endeavors.

Daryl and Audrey Erdman Prize for Entrepreneurship is endowed by gifts from Daryl A. and Audrey P. Erdman, Luther class of 1961. Through their generosity, the Erdman’s provide $12,000 in awards to three student entrepreneurs every year.

To be selected for an Erdman Prize, the Luther students who create, develop and manage a successful entrepreneurial enterprise during their years at Luther must apply for the prize and present their venture to a panel of judges. The judging panel is comprised of entrepreneurs in the Decorah community. The Erdman Prize is open to all full-time Luther students from all majors.

Daryl Erdman is the author of “Scar Tissue Lessons from the World of Entrepreneurship,” and is nationally recognized for his leadership and service in the entrepreneurial field. Erdman is founder, chairman, and CEO of Strategic Growth Resources Inc.; senior director of AAVIN Venture Capital, a venture capital firm headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and past director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas and the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa. He also serves as an adviser to many start-up companies, some of which are owned and operated by former students.

After the presentation of the students’ pitches in Marty’s, there will be a break for lunch while the judges confer and then the students will be awarded their prizes. The first place prize is $6,000 and two runner up prizes are each $3,000.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: