All entrepreneurs dream of turning their business plans into viable, profitable businesses. Once again this year, the college’s New Venture Challenge business plan competition is helping them transform these dreams into reality.
Hosted by the Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, the competition this time brought with it a new emphasis on social responsibility—with the top-placing business plans weaving a feasible connection between successful entrepreneurship and environmentally and community-focused concepts.
The annual competition invited all upper-division undergraduate and graduate full-time or part-time students as well as alumni to participate. Their business ideas were required to be for an original seed-funded, for-profit start-up venture. The top four winning teams would receive cash and in-kind contributions to help them fund their new businesses.
“More than ever before, our students took innovative paths to combine solid business plans with greater social awareness,” said Alan Carsrud, executive director of the Pino Center and clinical professor of management. “This trend toward social entrepreneurship is likely to continue to gain momentum as a growth area for new businesses.”
First comes the preparation, then the presentation.
The months spent researching and refining every aspect of their business plans culminated first with the Semi-Final Oral Rounds of presentations held on May 2, 2007, when students presented their proposals to an audience that included judges, team members, and supporters.
The judges, who were struck by the scope and originality of this year’s business plans, selected five finalist teams for the undergraduate program category and five finalist teams for the graduate and alumni category to move up to the Final Oral Presentation rounds, which took place on May 15, 2007.
“I was impressed by the students’ ability to construct a convincing argument for building a business focused on making financial profit and doing social good.”
—Jonathan I. Kislak, principal, Miami Shores-based Antares Capital Corporation, returning New Venture Challenge judge, and Pino Center Advisory Board chairman
“I thought the talent and diversity in the College of Business Administration’s student body were well represented in this year’s competition,” said Jonathan I. Kislak, principal, Miami Shores-based Antares Capital Corporation and returning New Venture Challenge judge who currently chairs the Pino Center’s Advisory Board. “I was impressed by the students’ ability to construct a convincing argument for building a business focused on making financial profit and doing social good.”
Welcome to the winners’ circle.
The New Venture Challenge winners were announced at the 2007 Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Luncheon held on May 16, 2007, at Parrot Jungle Island in Miami.
The top prize in the graduate/alumni competition went to Biodiversity & Company, which incorporates multi-faceted, nature-based business concepts centered on working with the Chachi tribe in Ecuador to promote ecotourism, sales of carbon credits, and sales of non-timber forest products. The monies generated help support research and the renewal of that country’s Chocó rainforest.
“My business focuses on making a profit responsibly,” said Erica Courtney (EMBA ’07), who co-founded Biodiversity & Company with Patricia Jo Terrack, Courtney’s mother and business partner, who has been supporting non-profit efforts in Ecuador since her stint in the Peace Corps there.
Courtney is thankful to the Pino Center staff for coordinating the event and providing her with this tremendous opportunity.
“I’ve learned a great deal through the process,” she said. “Having deadlines forced me and my team to put a product together. The semi-final oral round was brutal. Since our business is on the forefront of emerging markets, not everyone knew the background or its potential. I realized I needed to present my concept in a completely different way, and I took the judges’ recommendations to heart before going into the final round.”
Start-up company QualicAID won the grand prize for the undergraduate competition with a business plan for outsourcing Medicare eligibility screening and enrollment services to health care organizations.
“Thanks to the New Venture Challenge, what started out as a desire to make a difference and to help qualify people for Medicaid is now on its way to being a viable company,” said Jassiel Zapata, the sole entrepreneur behind the QualicAID concept, who is pursuing a business major in finance with plans to graduate in December, 2008.
Runner-up teams turn experience into workable business plans that “give back.”
Continuing with the social responsibility theme, the two undergraduate teams named as runners-up included Iraq war veterans who used the knowledge and experience they gained in the military to benefit their communities. Veterans Energy Solutions offers energy consumption audits and renewable energy designs, while Federal Protection Services plans to bring a range of security services to the citizens of Trinidad.
As Zapata describes it, no matter the nature of the business concept, writing a winning business plan is part art, part science.
“Everyone at the Pino Center nurtured the entrepreneur in all of us.”
—Jassiel Zapata, undergraduate New Venture Challenge winner
“Everyone at the Pino Center nurtured the entrepreneur in all of us,” he said. “They provided the right tools and support every step of the way—from the ‘boot camp’ preparation sessions to the practice presentation that helped calm nerves and prepared us to enter the final rounds of the competition with greater confidence.”
For more information on the 2007 New Venture Challenge business plan competition, please call 305-348-7156.