Coming from farm families, Cameron Eggersman and Jacob Wischmeier chose to join forces for a school project.
That decision paid off in a big way.
The Brownstown Central High School seniors were among nine finalists in the Jackson County Maverick Challenge, a business planning competition for high school students.
After presenting their project in front of three judges at the Community Foundation of Jackson County in Seymour, Eggersman and Wischmeier were declared the winners.
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They will split the top prize of $2,150 and advance to the regional competition March 4 at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
Also advancing is Brownstown Central senior Tyler Neal, who placed second and earned $1,500.
Eggersman and Wischmeier developed plans for Cover Crop Seeder, a device that allows farmers to plant cover crops in one pass instead of two. Neal created Hunt Safely LLC, a mounted system that allows a person to install a hunting tree stand by themselves.
The seniors came up with their projects as part of an assignment in Robin Perry’s entrepreneurship class during the first trimester.
Eggersman said he took the class because it would prepare him for running his own business in the future, while Wischmeier said he wanted to know more about handling money and investing.
The Maverick Challenge allows students to compete individually or with a partner or two.
Eggersman and Wischmeier decided to come up with a product they and other farmers could use.
“It’s just a tool that mounts on top of a disc, and it’s going to throw the seed right in front of your disc. Then you can plant the seed and work the ground all in one pass. It’s a real simple tool that saves a lot of time,” Wischmeier said of the Cover Crop Seeder.
That would cut in half the number of steps it takes to plant cover crops, which are grown to protect and enrich soil.
“Normally, you would have to have a co-op come in and spread your seed, and then you’d have to come back and disc it. This spreads it and discs it all at the same time. You could do it yourself in one pass,” Wischmeier said.
“Planting a cover crop can be a hassle at times because it takes quite a bit of extra work and time and money, so therefore, we thought we could invest in something to eliminate some time and cost,” Eggersman said.
In explaining their product to the judges, Eggersman and Wischmeier both said they felt confident because of their agricultural backgrounds. Eggersman is the third generation of his family to be involved with farming, and Wischmeier also started farming at a young age.
“At the very beginning, we were like, ‘There is quite a bit of money on the line. Why don’t we just go ahead and do the best we can and try and receive some of that money for later on down the road?'” Eggersman said. “We just went and did our best at it the whole time, and it really paid off at the end.”
For the regional presentation, they said they will add more specific detail about the product and may include a video to show how it would work.
“Because some people, it’s not their field or background, and they don’t really understand,” Eggersman said.
“We want to try to get it across to our judges as best as we can,” Wischmeier said.
This is Eggersman’s first time competing in the Maverick Challenge, but Wischmeier did it last year as a student at Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour. He was on a team with Emma Wischmeier and Victor Hackman that placed second at the county competition, won $1,500 and advanced to regional. Their product was Wisch-man Canola Oil.
The top finishers at regional also have a chance to earn cash prizes.
The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce started the Maverick Challenge in 2008. High school students from 12 area counties are invited to participate.
A kickoff event is conducted in each county early in the school year, and students later pitch their ideas. Written business plans are submitted, and then it is narrowed down to finalists who give oral presentations.
In Jackson County’s sixth year of participation, 22 written plans from Brownstown Central, Seymour and Trinity Lutheran high schools were submitted for the county competition, which is a joint partnership between Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce and Brownstown Chamber of Commerce.
Local business professionals helped narrow those down to nine to present in front of the judges Jan. 18. In the end, the judges divided $6,000 between the finalists.
Since 2012, Brownstown students have won $26,100 in cash for their efforts in the Maverick Challenge. In 2014, a three-member team from the school won the county and regional competitions.
In the entrepreneurship class, Perry’s students spend 10 weeks doing research, learning how to make a business call, writing a college-level business plan and using an extensive financial spreadsheet. Students do all of the work themselves, and they can seek guidance from business mentors.
Perry said students try to generate original ideas that are not already in existence somewhere in the marketplace.
Eggersman said that class and the Maverick Challenge give students a chance to do public speaking and present an idea to professionals, which will be valuable no matter what career paths they choose.
Wischmeier is taking a speech class at school, while Eggersman is taking it during the third trimester. Both also are involved in a school-to-work program that allows them to work on their family farms.
After high school, Eggersman said he plans to attend college and eventually come back to the family farm, and Wischmeier said he will continue to work on his family farm.
With this year’s Jackson County Maverick Challenge high school business planning competition, 22 plans were submitted. The nine finalists recently made presentations in front of three judges.
Here are the results:
First place: Cameron Eggersman and Jacob Wischmeier of Brownstown Central High School, Cover Crop Seeder
Second place: Tyler Neal of Brownstown Central High School, Hunt Safely LLC
Third place: Gavin Bane of Brownstown Central High School, TrackMaster
The top two move on to the regional competition March 4 at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
For information about the Maverick Challenge, visit maverickchallenge.com.