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Freshmen Show Their Business Savvy with Presentations

Eight teams have eight minutes to impress judges

Little sparks that blazed into big business ideas held the spotlight this spring when the Jack Welch College of Business presented its fourth New Business Plan Poster Session and Final Presentations.

The event began with the poster session in the Edgerton Center and continued in University Commons, where about 125 people sat in as eight teams of freshmen—finalists from the eight sections of SHU’s Introduction to Business course—presented their work.

Tuvana Rua, assistant professor of management, coordinated the competition, which takes place each fall and spring. Thirty students are enrolled in each of the eight course sections and competed in class initially; only one team of five to seven students from each section made the finals.

“Students develop and research their ideas, and do a full-blown feasibility study,” Rua explained. “Some drop their ideas and develop new ones before doing a full business plan under faculty guidance.” As to the benefits of the process, she said, “It gives them a great starting point in terms of how all the majors talk to each other, gets them excited about business and aids with presentation skills.”

A panel of five judges assessed the eight-minute presentations: Glenn Houck, co-founder and co-CEO of LQ Digital; Brenda Lewis, an entrepreneur with extensive experience managing the launch of mobile enterprise software, systems and services ventures; Michael Maguire, a seasoned senior executive; Gerry Manna, president of Computer SI Corp.; and Terry Powell, who has 30 years in the business coaching profession.

Though it was Lewis’ first time judging at SHU, she was no stranger to assessing new business plans. She taught University of Connecticut’s first business plan competition in 2000 as an adjunct professor in its MBA program. From her industry perspective, “The earlier we can get to start-ups, the easier we can make the path to success. It’s easier to correct their curve, and we can give them an edge.”

With regard to new business plan contests at the college level, Lewis noted, “These types of competitions are increasing in number. The concept of aiming at undergraduates is increasing in relevance. It’s a pressure cooker for these teams. Hopefully they get an edge for when they go for financing later on.”

Student Justin Squarzini’s team made the finals with its business plan idea, “Smokin’ Shovel,” which uses heat technology to aid in snow shoveling. He was certainly feeling the heat but was confident as he and his teammates did some last-minute rehearsing. “Everyone contributed in their own way,” Squarzini said. “We were inspired by the challenge. One of the professors reminded us, ‘We’re all on your side and want you to have fun.’ It’s great to get advice from the people who have been there, done that.”

Among the other business concepts presented was “SHU Shine,” proposing a convenient, low-priced, student-run, shoe-cleaning service on campus, tagged, “Put your best foot forward.”

The “Bye-Lighter” team offered a highlighting marker with ink that fades after three to four months on a page, allowing for better resale value of textbooks that traditional highlighters permanently mark.

Bob Lauterborn, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was among the presentation observers. “It’s just amazing that freshmen can do this level of work,” Lauterborn said. “They obviously learned a lot in the process of creating their business plans; they may have learned even more from the judges’ insightful questions.”

University President John Petillo also attended the presentations. He commented, “To get students immersed quickly into the skills they need is important. It gives them the opportunity to determine the field they want to get into. The course is a microcosm. It really builds confidence early, rather than waiting until the junior or senior year.”

The winners

Taking first place and a $1,000 prize was the presentation for YourBoard, an idea for next-generation hoverboards. Rua coached the team, which included Dominic Argenti, Ryan Bramble, Alexander Goncalves, Yanni Papadopoulos, Michael Rendine and Javed Wright.

The second-place business concept (and winner of $500) was Cookies by Big Red, which proposed campus delivery of fresh-baked cookies to students. The business plan was created by Danielle Knapp, Ashley Loser, Caroline Popolizio and Karen Tricarico, and the team was coached by Professor Megan Abrahamsen.

In third place (winning $250) was the Bye-Lighter team, comprising Diandra Henry, Kaylin Huey, Kendall Maylor, Victoria O’Malley, Rachel Pierson, Lauren Porter and Nicole Sauve. They were coached by Professor Jeanine Andreassi.

Listen to an interview with the winning team on Ann Nyberg’s Network Connecticut here.

The following students were winners in the poster session:

  • Best Service: Beauty Squad—Makeup experts who make house calls to SHU residence halls (Jessica Colucci, Nicholas Barrett, Anthony Breakfield, Anushka Chowdhuri, Murray Cockburn, Cecilia Martinez, Cathleen Stanley)
  • Best Product: Go Go Gum—Caffeine gum and college scholarship program (Olivia Wunder, Dylan Bartel, Ryan Welch, Cliff Esmiol, Alexander Guerrero, Carmen Vacchiano)
  • Best Business Idea: The Mix—Social networking site for college students (Chantal Benavidez, Michael Bubalo, Brandon Capuano, Kevin Carlson, Alexandra Diagonale, Michelle Johnson)
  • Best Poster: Delivery Dogs—Delivery service that brings any product to the customer’s doorstep (Andrew  Rosensweig, Abigail Dubois, Alexander Leite, Charles Pitcher, Samantha Jackson)

View photos from the event here.