Two University of Wisconsin-Stout students will present a patent-pending combination yard game and lawn chair at a statewide business competition.
The PlaySit, invented by Karen Schmidt of Oshkosh, is in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament on Saturday, April 21, at the Discovery Building in Madison. Students Emily Doroff, 20, and Reid Geiger, 25, both juniors majoring in business administration, are helping develop and present Schmidt’s idea.
PlaySit has circular holes with nets in the back and seat of the chair. Points are collected for tossing bags in the holes and in the chair’s cup holders. The set will come with five-inch zebra stripe bean bags.
“I do go to a lot of outdoor events in the summer and could see a real use for it,” Geiger said of the PlaySit. “It seemed fun.”
The plan is to start offering PlaySit on campus for students to try. Plans also are underway to sell it near Oshkosh initially and then expand markets, Doroff said.
“I always have been interested in innovation and enterprise,” Doroff said. “I always wanted to be involved in a startup business.”
Schmidt, who has neuroendocrine or NET cancer, hit upon the idea for the PlaySit while on the beach in Florida, where she goes to escape part of Wisconsin’s winters.
“I was sitting on the beach with a hundred other snowbirds,” Schmidt said. “I observed a lot of people were sitting on the beach waiting to play one game of corn hole a resort had out.”
People were willing to wait rather than haul a game with them because they are heavy, Schmidt said. PlaySit combines the chair and game.
Schmidt contacted the UW-Stout Discovery Center, which helped her start working with Doroff, of Burnsville, Minn., and Geiger, of Fall Creek.
Both students are doing a “fantastic job” developing the idea, Schmidt said. “They definitely have the passion, drive and enthusiasm,” she said.
Schmidt’s original idea called for smaller holes, which proved a bit too difficult, Doroff said. “We are working to make it more user-friendly and make it easier to get points,” Doroff said.
The bean bags are zebra striped because that’s the pattern of neuroendocrine cancer awareness ribbons. The cancer is rare and can be difficult to diagnosis, Schmidt said, adding it took about 15 years for her to be diagnosed.
The WBIT entrepreneurship competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students attending any two- or four-year University of Wisconsin school, except UW-Madison. WBIT teaches cutting-edge Lead Startup business development tools, provides business mentorship and allows participants to compete at a state level for a chance to win seed funding.
The winning team will have a chance to compete internationally at the International Business Model Competition May 10-11 in Provo, Utah, with up to $27,000 in cash prizes.
Eleven other teams will compete at the state competition, according to the WiSys Technology Foundation website. The competition is based on experiential learning, finding real-world problems and efficiently vetting business ideas that solve those problems.
Mary Spaeth, assistant professor of international business and entrepreneurship, is helping the UW-Stout team prepare. “This is a polytechnic university where application is key,” Spaeth said. “This is an opportunity for students to show their work and articulate their ideas.”
Doroff and Geiger qualified during a March 23 competition at UW-Stout. The judges included three people from UW-Stout, Randy Hulke, Discovery Center; Larry Blackledge, Manufacturing Outreach Center; and Ken Smith, operations management lecturer and owner of Cascade Biosystems. Also judging was Stacie Breitung, WESTConsin Credit Union.
Part of the proceeds from the sales of PlaySit will be donated to cancer research. Schmidt, 50, said her dream is to have PlaySit available everywhere to raise money for research and awareness about NET cancer.
UW-Stout student Reid Geiger demonstrates how to play the patent-pending PlaySit game that he and Emily Doroff are presenting at the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament in Madison.