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Entrepreneurial Student Wins Big With Mushrooms and Coffee

May 17, 2018

Kevin Swanberg, who recently earned his Masters in Liberal Studies, wins this year's UMD Shark Tank.

Pairing mushrooms and coffee isn’t something you would typically do. But Kevin Swanberg did think about that very thing and earned himself $1,500.

His entry in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics' Third Annual UMD Shark Tank, called Locaspore, wowed the judges of the event and netted Swanberg the first place prize.

Approximately 95 people attended the event last month to learn about UMD’s budding entrepreneurs’ ideas for products or services.

Locaspore, a negative-waste urban mushroom farm, uses waste byproducts from local coffee roasters, such as Duluth Coffee Company and Alakef Coffee, to grow fresh, healthy mushrooms at a price that is competitive to large mushroom farms.

Swanberg, who earned his Masters in Liberal Studies from the College of Liberal Arts in May 2018 and his B.S. in Linguistics in 2015, found that with 50% of the U.S. mushroom supply coming from Pennsylvania, transportation costs are not environmentally sustainable, and the product is not as fresh as it could be. Locaspore’s product is fiscally profitable, environmentally responsible, and ecologically innovative.

Swanberg also took into consideration the logistics of seasonal growth, sterile growing techniques, and packaging in developing Locaspore.

Also earning prizes with their product/service were:

  • Jacob Armstrong, a Mathematics major in Swenson College of Science and Engineering, earned second place and $875 with StormSell – a mobile application that would be used by roofing contractors to produce quick and accurate damage scope reports to insurance adjusters.
  • Antonio Davis, an LSBE Entrepreneurship major, and Andrew Weisz, an LSBE double major in Entrepreneurship and Management, earned third place and $650 with Bold and Brash Bandanas – a business that specializes in bandanas for cancer patients who have lost their hair after cancer treatments.
  • Emma Kesler and Peter Schmitz, both Cultural Entrepreneurship majors in the College of Liberal Arts, created a web business, Rent Report, that earned the Audience Choice award. Their business, that connects the renting community in Duluth through shared rental experiences, earned them $300.

 Judges of this year’s UMD Shark Tank were:

  • Curt Walzak, business consultant at the UMD Center for Economic Development
  • Ben Luoma, director of interactive at Swim Creative in Duluth
  • Eric Faust, owner and roaster of Duluth Coffee Company
  • Chelle Eliason, executive officer for the Arrowhead Builders Association and entrepreneurial coach
  • Dayne Lester, co-founder, partner, and executive vice president at Ravin Crossbows in Superior, Wisconsin.
  • Patrick Miner, store director at Miner’s Incorporated for its Super One Foods and Super One Liquor entities

Pictured above from left to right: Kevin Swanberg - first place, Jacob Armstrong - second place, Antonio Davis and Andrew Weisz - third place, and Emma Kesler and Peter Schmitz - Audience Choice.

Learn more about the College of Liberal Arts.

Learn more about the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.

Learn more about UMD Shark Tank

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