Rising Sophomore’s Business Proposal Wins Show-Me Innovation College PITCH Competition

Paige Brenneke, ’25 ΚΚΓ, found inspiration for an award-winning business idea in the most unlikely of places: her aunt’s garage. A relative’s cremated remains tucked away on a shelf became the basis of the Westminster biology major’s proposal to the Show-Me Innovation College PITCH Competition.

“My aunt had expressed her unsettledness over our relative’s ashes just sitting there, and the idea just clicked,” Brenneke said.

Her pitch ― forming loved one’s cremated remains into meticulously formulated and artfully glazed pottery pieces ― resulted in a first-place award in April of $2,000 for her Cremation Creations business proposal.

Sponsored by the Callaway Chamber of Commerce and Missouri’s Small Business Development Corporation, submissions were accepted from students at Westminster College, William Woods University, and Lincoln University.

Four finalists presented their ideas before a panel of experts in a format similar to the Shark Tank entrepreneurial reality television series. Brenneke’s  “Cremation Creations: Art Reimagined” PowerPoint presentation included every facet of a traditional business proposal, including information on competition, margins, use of funds, and important benchmarks for her proposed business.

“My art will resonate differently with each individual,” she said in the presentation. “As a humble facilitator, I hope to offer an alternative solution to those grieving.”

The ceramic pieces above are just a few examples of Paige Brenneke’s original artwork through her new business, Cremation Creations, made possible by her $2,000 award through the Show-Me Innovation College PITCH Competition.

Brenneke is minoring in ceramic chemistry at William Woods University, where she regularly uses pottery equipment for her creations. She added that she plans to use her grant money to turn the basement of her parents’ Fenton, MO, home into a pottery studio.

When she isn’t producing unique artwork, Brenneke participates in the Campus Activities Board, Student Foundation, Blue Blazers Investment Committee, Pre-Healthcare Club, and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

The rising sophomore plans to attend medical school after graduation to become a surgeon, all while keeping up with her artwork on the weekends.

Meanwhile, Brenneke says is thoroughly enjoying the small-college experience.

“The professors here are accommodating and will do anything to see us succeed,” she reflected. “I am looking forward to studying in the cadaver lab as well as travel opportunities through the College.”

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is a Media and Content Strategist at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. A 1992 graduate of the College, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communication in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.