Business challenge for 10K under way

St. Thomas students will present their unique business ideas Oct. 30 in the final competitions of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge.

The preliminary submission, presented Oct. 15, consisted of a brief description of the business concept (product or service), targeted a specific customer, provided solutions for solving the customer’s problem and demonstrated how the product or service will generate revenue and profit. This is the inaugural year for the business challenge.

Student innovation

Junior Martha McCarthy is excited for this venture.

“I like that it’s open to all undergraduate students because … a lot of people have good business ideas and this is a starting point, whether they really want to start the business soon or if it’s just a fun thing,” she said.

McCarthy and her partner junior Emily Pritchard have developed ideas for several bike accessories.

“We decided to create a bike specifically for commuters or college students, people who are going to work or to class pretty much on a daily basis,” McCarthy said. “We wanted to adapt an already existing urban bike and make its accessories more compatible instead of having to install extra pieces. [We wanted to] have headlights and turn signals.”

Instead of having to physically attach these pieces, the bike would have magnetic points at which the accessories would be attached and would include a built-in locking mechanism that would prevent the bike from being stolen easily.

“It’s been fun to research it; we’re really into it,” McCarthy said. “I’m excited that [the challenge] has come to campus.”

Competing in the graduate division, MBA student Lance Hegland was interested in the challenge to implement a plan he had been working on.

“I’ve been exploring the business concept for several years,” he said. “I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to create a business plan and test the concept.”

Hegland and his partner Christopher Emerson, created a business that provides independent living situations for the disabled and elderly.

“Initially, Supported Independence Partnerships will develop, test, refine and widely offer a new model of long-term care, which we are referring to as Supported Independence Cooperatives,” Hegland said. “The Cooperatives are a hybrid of home care and assisted living services.”

Grand prize: a $10,000 scholarship

The challenge is open to all current St. Thomas students and consists of undergraduate and graduate divisions. Teams can have between two and five members. The teams will be judged by a panel on originality, business proposition, marketability and feasibility. The panel will then select the best business teams in the undergraduate and graduate divisions to compete as semi-finalists and present their ideas to a group of judges from the business community. From the 32 semi-finalist teams, four undergraduate teams and four graduate teams will compete for the awards.

The first place team gets the $10,000 scholarship, second place receives a $5,000 scholarship, third place collects a $2,500 scholarship and fourth place earns a $1,000 scholarship. An additional $1,000 scholarship will be presented to the team that wins in the category of Best Individual Presentation.

Challenge’s purpose

The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, which is part of the Opus College of Business, adapted the challenge at the request of St. Thomas alumnus Ron Fowler.

“The Challenge arose from the combined thinking of Mr. Ron Fowler, a St. Thomas alumnus and Dr. David Deeds,” said Christopher Puto, dean and chair of the Opus College of Business. “Mr. Fowler wanted to support students’ efforts to develop their entrepreneurial skills and abilities and he generously donated the funds to provide the scholarships.”

Students participating in the challenge are expected to demonstrate their business skills and entrepreneurial creativity.

“The concept behind the challenge is that entrepreneurial ideas can spring from almost any source, but to become successful business ventures, they must demonstrate the ability to solve a real market need and be well-grounded conceptually,” Puto said. “The result is to generate excitement around the idea of entrepreneurship and encourage students to think about what it takes to start a successful business.”

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