Thursday November 30, 2006

The Two-minute Pitch

If you've two minutes to spare, these fledgling entrepreneurs will give you their best pitch for a new business venture. The "elevator" pitch portion of the University of Dayton's Business Plan Competition is slated for Dec. 2.

Two University of Dayton students are teaming up with Andy Harmon, a former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle, to make a pitch that a computerized indoor/outdoor athletic training system is a business venture worth supporting.

On behalf of the team, Vince Pecoraro, a junior entrepreneurship major, will deliver a two-minute "elevator pitch" before a panel of judges during the first round of the University of Dayton Business Plan Competition that kicks off at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, in room 103 Miriam Hall on campus. The public is invited to hear the elevator pitches. In all, approximately 25 teams will test out ideas for start-up business ventures as they compete for five finalist spots and $10,000 of prize money. The finalists will be announced Dec. 6.

"I've developed a Reaction Agility Technique Trainer. It resembles a football sled, but it's completely interactive," said Harmon, a Centerville native who played seven seasons with the Eagles. "It measures the reaction times of players, either in a group or individually. It's great for competition. All the data is uploaded into a computer, and coaches can run spreadsheets on their players. There's nothing like this on the market. There's so much potential."

The University of Dayton's School of Business Administration launched the competition to help teach entrepreneurship and give students a leg up in the job market.

"Winning a business plan competition is an excellent line to add to a resume," said Jay Janney, assistant professor of management and competition coordinator. "Perfecting an elevator pitch provides a useful skill, particularly in a tight job market where firms have to make snap judgments on who to invite back for full interviews.

"This is a wonderful scrub opportunity for anyone with a business idea to test it out well in advance of committing any capital to it," he added.

The panel of judges, which includes two professors, two corporate executives and UD's vice president for research, will judge the elevator pitches on such criteria as concept viability, growth potential, originality and value to customers. Each of the finalists will then draft a business plan. The teams will be assigned mentors with entrepreneurial experience from the Dayton business community to help them sharpen their plans, which will be presented before a panel of judges on March 24. Winners will be announced at an awards dinner on March 28. The top team receives $5,000, with the rest divided among the other finalists.

The University of Dayton opened the Business Plan Competition to all UD undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni who graduated since 2002. Members of the Dayton community were also invited to team with students and enter the competition, which has drawn broad representation from students in various majors on campus as well as the local business community. More than 100 people attended five coaching sessions Janney presented this fall to help prospective competitors recognize business opportunities and hone their elevator pitches.

The University of Dayton this fall gained national recognition for its entrepreneurship program, named fifth best by Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review. The program started in 1999 with 10 students and enrolled a record 140 undergraduate majors this fall. It's the fastest-growing major in the School of Business Administration. Students don't just study theory. They become entrepreneurs. Flyer Enterprises, comprised of seven student-run businesses on campus, is now the fourth largest student-run operation in the nation, with more than $1.3 million in annual sales. All sophomore entrepreneurship majors are given $3,000 loans from the Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership to start their own businesses, with any profits going to charity. Businesses in the Dayton region receive free consulting from teams of senior entrepreneurship students.

"The Business Plan Competition is a way to teach entrepreneurship," said Dean McFarlin, chair of the management and marketing department and the NCR professor of global leadership development. "We're trying to teach students how to differentiate themselves from others and stand out. When you actually have to make an elevator speech in front of an audience and compete for real money, it raises the stakes."

Contact Jay Janney at 937-229-2975 and Dean McFarlin at 937-229-4928.