Thursday December 7, 2006

Winning Pitches

Frozen funnel cakes? Judges liked it and four other ideas pitched during the first round of UD's Business Plan Competititon.

Ever crave a tasty funnel cake, but the carnival has left town?

Jim Croghan, a junior entrepreneurship, finance and operations management major at the University of Dayton, brainstormed the idea during a high school graduation party for Carnival Cakes, a company that produces frozen versions. He and friend Greg Leibach, an art design major at Knox College in Galesberg, Ill., want to bring the fair fare into the grocery store frozen foods section.

"As far as funnel cakes go, I love them. There is something about their crispy warm sweetness that just makes me happy inside," he told judges during the two-minute "elevator pitch" portion of UD's first Business Plan Competition.

Judges bit on the idea, selecting it and four other new business ideas as finalists in the Business Plan Competition. The winning teams will develop full business plans for a March presentation and continue competing for $10,000 in prize money. Other winners include:

  • Get Quick, computerized sports agility trainers, by junior business majors Vince Pecoraro and Steven Kreiger and Andy Harmon, a former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle and Centerville, Ohio, resident;
  • Gelatoria, Italian Gelato, by entrepreneurship major Rachel Pleiman;
  • Residential Retrofitting and Care, home renovation for the elderly, by junior business major Timothy Miller; and
  • Life Stories Funboxes, a technological scrapbook, by law students Adrian King and George Limbert.

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. In all, 21 teams made elevator pitches. Carnival Cakes and Gelatoria came in first and fourth in this portion of the contest. Two other teams, Go Sustainable Energy and Contractor Concierge, didn't make the final cut but placed second and third with their elevator pitches.

"Winning a business plan competition is an excellent line to add to a résumé," 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 was a wonderful scrub opportunity for anyone with a business idea to test it out well in advance of committing any capital to it."

Janney said 30 percent of the competitors aren't majoring in business. These included students from the schools of law and engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as alumni and community members who paired with students to make the pitch.

The finalists will begin working on business plans, with the goal of having the production process, marketplace analysis, marketing plan and funding strategy in a document teams can use to secure additional funding for their ventures. They will meet with mentors from local businesses. The mentors are Dan O'Donnell, senior vice president-commercial lending, National City Bank; Mike Farrell, president and CEO, Farrell Aviation Co.; John Lee, chief financial officer, The Siebenthaler Co.; Dave Mellin, senior vice president-commercial lending, Fifth Third Bank; and Greg Popham, 2003 UD entrepreneurship graduate and product manager, BlueStar Inc.

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. 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.