The winners of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge were announced Oct. 30 and seniors Matthew Lichtfuss and Zachary Neugebauer took home the $10,000 first prize.
For the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, students developed a business concept and presented the concept to a panel of judges. The competition was divided between undergraduate and graduate students. Each of the winners from the graduate and undergraduate sections was awarded scholarship money and first place received a $10,000 scholarship.
“The competitors were impressive,” said Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business. “The ideas were well-conceived and the talent displayed by the students in their presentations was equally impressive.”
St. Thomas alumnus Ron Fowler funded the challenge and the Shulze School of Entrepreneurship, which is part of the Opus College of Business, implemented it.
“Because of Mr. Fowler’s generosity, we were able to provide not just a venue where people have ideas, but where they could be rewarded for their ideas with scholarships, which encourage more education,” Puto said. “It was a nice interaction between the scholarships and the ideas.”
Fifth Corner Media wins 10K
Lichtfuss and Neugebauer, who placed first in the undergraduate level, won with their Fifth Corner Media business idea.
“Our company is going to provide a free packaged input that any tanning salon in the United States can easily apply,” Neugebauer said. “Our input consists of free satellite music that salons can provide to their customers while they tan.”
Because people are so busy, it is hard to capture their undivided attention, Neugebauer said.
“But when you are tanning, you are not on your cell phone, reading a book or listening to your iPod because of risk of tan lines,” he said. “They are just laying there and not moving around. It’s a way for us to talk to them and have their complete undivided attention.”
When customers tan, they must give their age, sex and zip code. Using this information, Fifth Corner Media will allow tan ads to be generated toward a customer’s specific demographic.
“We believe this company will be the first in the world to bring the sniper approach of Internet advertising to a stronger medium,” Neugebauer said.
Lichtfuss said he and Neugebauer initially began the business idea in an entrepreneurship class and have worked on it for a while.
“We did research,” Lichtfuss said. “We buckled down and wanted to get it done.”
Entrepreneurship professor David Deeds supervised the challenge and said the winners stood out among the other competitors because they discussed a clear target market in their presentations.
Fowler’s funding extends challenge another five years
Deeds said he looks forward to more submissions next year.
“We might push the date [of the challenge] back next year,” Deeds said. “This year it conflicted with midterms.”
Fowler has donated enough funding for the challenge to be held for the next five years. With additional donations, Puto said he hopes the challenge will continue for forever.
Puto said he was impressed with the quality of the feedback that the judges gave each team.
“After the judging was over, the judges gave them feedback on their idea, presentation and concept,” he said. “To get this kind of detailed commentary is like a Mastercard commercial. It’s priceless.”
Puto added that the panel of judges was a wonderful cross-section of the business community.
The judges were people who were either involved in new venture finance, had multiple experiences with their own start-up businesses or were from larger corporations, Puto said.
“It introduces some of them [the judges] to St. Thomas,” he said. “And to those [judges] who already knew St. Thomas, it allows them to have a deeper level of engagement and let’s them see the talent in our student body.”
Derek Buschow, who placed first in the graduate level with his partner, Jeremiah Messerer, said receiving feedback from a panel of successful entrepreneurs was invaluable.
“It validated our concept and encouraged us to pursue the next stages of our entrepreneurial venture,” Buschow said.
- Matthew Lichtfuss and Zachary Neugebauer won $10,000
- Joseph Nesbitt and Jeff Sevaldson won $5,000
- Martha McCarthy and Emily Pritchard won $1,750
- Noah Namowicz and Anthony Kelly also won $1,750.
- Zach Neugebauer also won an additional $1,000 for being the best presenter.
- Derek Buschow and Jeremiah Messerer won $10,000
- Senthil Kumaran and Mike Wayman won $5,000
- Tanya Novak and Jeremy James won $2,500
- Jordan Jones and Laura Storkamp won $1,000
- Senthil Kumaran won an additional $1,000 for being the best presenter.
Rebekah Frank can be reached at email@example.com