It's true in life, and in business: Every person's ideas have value; every contribution can be a positive step or even a major breakthrough in any human endeavor. But in business, especially small business, it's easy to become discouraged by the long and difficult process of bringing an idea to fruition. Business plans, financing strategies, marketing, product development—all of this work is of great necessity, but it can be extraordinarily difficult, even impossible for many, if not most. Every day, budding entrepreneurs put away an idea that could be great, were it not for the daunting tasks that it takes to bring it to life.
This spring, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Merrick School of Business hosted its inaugural "Rise to the Challenge" Idea Competition, an opportunity for UB students to describe and build out their dreams for a business—big or small, product or service oriented, totally original or based on existing work. Each participant submitted an executive summary of their idea, complete with a description of the proposed venture, the industry it represents, the target market and any and all milestones that the venture has achieved to date.
"We had eight finalists vying for the $1,000 first prize in this year’s competition.” said Johnetta Hardy, executive director of the center. "I can tell you the judges had a difficult time choosing which entrepreneur had the best idea. The students were as diverse as their ideas, representing the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and the School of Law. I’m just so proud of these students and how they acted on their creative impulses and worked to present their idea. I always say to them ‘As an entrepreneur, you have to stay open to ideas, and be unafraid of sharing them.’”
Congratulations to all the winners, especially Chris Wilson who went home with the top prize for his growing company, T&W Furniture Repair and Upholstery.
The complete list of winners and their business plans are:
1st Place - $1,000: Chris Wilson (School of Business) - T&W Furniture Repair and Upholstery – increase capacity
2nd Place (2) - $300: Isaac Schleifer (School of Business) - Online fundraising software program for non-profits; and Sade Chambers (School of Law) - the O.B. Light System, a vehicle brake light system which indicates the rate of decelerating vehicles
3rd place - $200: Emily Kaiser (School of Business) - the Dog and Youth Partnership of America – training organization
Honorable Mentions (4) - $100 each:
- Jacob Goldberg (School of Business) -a grid system that will melt snow and ice from roadways.
- Jane Guan (School of Law) - a theme-based café that provides an “aristocratic” experience for the customer
- Bryanna Jenkins (College of Arts and Sciences)-a cosmetic company specializing in blendable foundations.
- Josh Ziggas (School of Business) - A smartphone app that helps users find publically available restrooms, and allows them to rates these facilities.
It is also important to note that the center’s good friend and competition judge Leonard Attman generously provided additional monies for the tied-for-second-place winner and the four $100 awards for the honorable mentions.
“Mr. Attman made every student participant feel like a winner,” said Hardy.
2013 Rise to the Challenge Competitors from left to right:
Josh Ziggas, Emily Kaiser, Jane Guan, Chris Wilson,
Isaac Schleifer, Sade Chambers, Bryanna Jenkins and Jacob Goldberg