MBA student wins top prize for his startup company pitch at DIG South
CLEMSON — For the second year in a row, a student in Clemson’s MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation program has taken first place in the business-plan pitch competition at the DIG South conference in Charleston.
Josh Luetkemeyer won $7,500 in the student/early stage division of the Wild Pitch for his startup company Standard Ice, which creates premium, crystal-clear ice cubes that last longer than regular ice and produce a tastier, less watered-down drink.
DIG South is an annual conference that draws more than 200 presenters and 1,500 attendees from across the country. Focused on technology and early-stage entrepreneurship, the conference brings together startups and investors in an effort to fund worthwhile new ventures. Luetkemeyer was one of eight student/early stage entrepreneurs selected to compete in front of a panel of experts and a live audience.
Last year, Clemson MBAe student Even Skjervold took top honors at the same event for his startup Southyeast Labs.
Luetkemeyer gained inspiration for his company while working for Coca-Cola in Moscow, Russia. He asked for ice in his drink and was served shavings from a large block of solid ice. He realized that the quality and flavor of ice has as much impact on a drink as the other ingredients and began researching methods to recreate this experience.
Though he had a marketing degree and 10 years of experience, he thought an MBA would better prepare him for success in managing the business and enrolled in the MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation program. There he researched his idea and found the best way to introduce the product to the market.
Luetkemeyer’s company designed a method to freeze cubes while filtering air, impurities and contaminants out and balancing the minerals and Ph factor for better flavor. The finished cubes are two inches in diameter, crystal clear and last eight to 13 minutes longer than the same volume of scooped ice.
Luetkemeyer currently sells the cubes at specialty liquor stores in the Upstate and is looking to actively expand nationally by selling his product to large chains, such as Whole Foods and Total Wine. His long-range vision is to set up Standard Ice manufacturing plants around the country to eliminate shipping.