An innovative, high-tech cooler put FIU Business student Leonardo De Crescenzo on top of 50 entries in this year’s BizNovator Challenge, presented for the first time in Miami by the non-profit Casimiro Global Foundation.
BizNovator contestants are charged with creating a business plan for a new product or a plan to drive sales for an existing product. De Crescenzo’s tech-intensive, solar-powered creation, the U-Cooler, boasts Bluetooth speakers, a phone or device charger and low-pressure tires for easy rolling on the sand.
“The good thing about winning this challenge is that now I’m going to have a private mentor for a year that will help us give life to the prototype soon so that we can later start production,” said De Crescenzo. “A person who has invented something, knows about working with investors, and can promote products will guide me through what’s doable and what isn’t.”
In addition to the business and marketing plans, participants had to calculate start-up and operating costs, prepare a pricing analysis and conduct market research to identify their target consumer. They also produced a video commercial promoting the product.
Competition “empowers” future entrepreneurs.
“Our mission is to create and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs, social innovators and global leaders,” said Juan Casimiro, founder of the Miami-based Casimiro Global Foundation. “They can effectively take on some of our nation’s social challenges through technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.” The challenge is open to elementary school, high school and college students in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In 2015 Casimiro Global Foundation plans to expand the BizNovator Challenge globally.
De Crescenzo, a graduate student, came up with the U-Cooler idea three years ago and it has been in research and design mode for the last 12 months.
“Leonardo’s presentation and enthusiasm was awesome,” said Casimiro, who described U-Cooler as a cutting edge idea. “If he continues to do his homework, get his patent, and bring the investor to the mix, he’ll have something marketable.”
Enrolled in the COB’s Marketing Yourself class, De Crescenzo worked on his presentation skills with professor Anna Pietraszek, director of the Office of Graduate Admissions, Recruitment, & Financial Aid at the COB, who also teaches the course. The final BizNovator presentations were held October 16 at the COB’s Special Events room.
A four-person committee reviewed all of the entries and selected 12 finalists, which were judged on innovation, zeal and entrepreneurial effort. In addition to Casimiro, the judges were:
- Ken Finneran, director of human resources at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics
- Cesar De La Rosa, senior account executive at Windstream Communications
- Magda Gelves, social entrepreneur and founder of Smile Art Foundation
The field of competitors was later reduced to the four winners, one in each category plus a community award. Mentors will guide them through the development and execution process. Casimiro will work with De Crescenzo on the U-Cooler project.
This year’s BizNovator awards were presented October 23 at the Casimiro Global Foundation’s annual gala in Miami. Previous events have been held in New York, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo.