"VentureOut" and "BoneSmart" win Business Plan Competition
Innovative ideas for an app to revolutionize the scope of social, platonic meet-ups and a wearable bone mineral density monitor to easily detect weakness in bones were the grand prize-winners of Fairfield University’s Business Plan Competition’s ‘venture’ and ‘social’ tracks. The Fairfield University undergraduates behind those ideas took home $7,000 and $5,000 in prize money respectively at the winner-take-all finals Monday night attended by a standing room only crowd at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.
Ideas for a golf course management system and a website to donate textbooks to help students who can’t afford them were the runners-up in the venture and social tracks, receiving $3,000 and $2,500 each in the process.
“The winners will get a shot at being clients of FAME [the Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise],” Dr. Donald E. Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, told the audience of 200.
The finalists included an imaginative mix of self-starting undergraduate students from Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering, and College of Arts & Sciences who pooled their knowledge and skill sets to develop viable business plans. The prize money will go to further developing those business ideas.
The contest went into fever pitch as student teams had just six minutes to make their plan presentations to an impressive panel of judges, including entrepreneurs and business leaders - some of whom are alumni. Faculty from the Dolan School, College of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Engineering served as advisors to student teams as did alumni and area business professionals. “We admire you for your dedication and passion,” said Associate Professor Chris Huntley, PhD, who co-chaired the competition with Dolan School colleague Mukesh Sud, PhD.
The venture track consisted of new business ideas with a commercial focus. The winners were ‘VentureOut’ - an app to enable young professionals to gain access to microcosms of platonic, social meet-ups so that they can cultivate new friendships and network in new cities. The student team members are seniors Jennifer Le, an English major, with a double minor in marketing and biology; Gina Biondi, a double major in accounting and Information Systems; and Jessica Mendes, a communication major. Mentors were Gene Mauro, '92, Pearson/Consultant, and Matt Powers, '03, chief technology officer, Applico Inc.
Second place went to ‘Valet,’ a multi-faceted tool to benefit golfers and golf courses accessible from any web-enabled device, developed by seniors Cody Reinold and Anthony Mingolello, both Information Systems & Operations Management majors. Mike Roer, president of the Entrepreneurship Foundation, Inc., was their mentor. Receiving $1,000 each were two other finalists: 'Glove Guard’ and ‘The Match University.’
The social track consisted of new organizations that attempt to resolve a pressing social problem that markets have failed to resolve. The winners were 'BoneSmart', a wearable, wireless, non-invasive medical device that will measure bone mineral density and blood flow. Team members are Robert Garrone, an electrical engineering major; Ralph Belfiore, an accounting major; Bernardo Navarro, an accounting and economics double major; Stephanie Sutherby, a mechanical engineering major, and Michael Raymond, an electrical engineering major. The device is also being developed for the School of Engineering’s Senior Design course. Mentors are engineering faculty members Shahrokh Etemad, PhD, and Ryan Munden, PhD., as well as mentor coordinator David Murray, vice president, Integrated Sales and Marketing, NCM Media Networks. The runner-up was ‘UXchange’ – an organization that takes items that college students carelessly throw away, such as books, and works with social agencies to donate them to those in need. Team members are Guadalupe Ramirez, ’16, an Information Systems major; Rheem Al Barazi, ’16 who is studying international business; and John Bica. Vishnu Vinekar, PhD, associate professor of Information Systems, was their mentor.
The competition kicked off last fall to much fanfare. The competition was made possible by generous donations from Mary Lincoln Campbell MA ’72; Joseph Bronson ’70; Hugh Davis ’95; and Chris Stephens.
The competition is a three-year old endeavor that has introduced “a whole new style of learning” to students interested in entrepreneurism, and complements the Dolan School of Business’s popular Entrepreneurship Program offerings. That program has also led to the FAME, a business incubator program that was launched last year with the Town of Fairfield and Kleban Properties.
The Entrepreneurship Program at the Dolan School of Business began in the Management Department in response to robust interest from students wishing to become entrepreneurs or business owners. For more information about all who made the competition happen, visit www.fairfield.edu/businessplan.
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