Stakes high at inaugural Fairfield University Business Plan Competition


Image: Business Plan winnersA mobile app cataloguing the finest restaurants, a fashion-related Internet service provider, and a tool to predict economic activity were just some of the big ideas that Fairfield University students presented at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business's inaugural student business plan competition.

Frank Serravalli '13, creator of "The Winning Trade," a web-based financial trading platform game, was the winner of the competition, besting 17 other contenders. The Seaford, New York resident not only took home $10,000 in prize money, but the determination to pursue his dream of starting a business.

An accounting major, he has a business plan to meld the world of finance with the world of online gaming by creating a real-life simulation game. "This game prepares you for the real world," said Serravalli. "It allows individuals to come together through the game, create hedge funds, use real-time data, and create performance reports that will prove their skills and set them up for future jobs."

Team Tasteful, a group that created a discovery platform, website, and mobile application that curates trustworthy recommendations of restaurants, was awarded second place and $2,000. It's the idea of marketing/economics major Brendan Carr '13, of Langhorne, Penn.; Brendan O'Brien '13, of Colts Neck, New Jersey; and Alex Lebow '12, of Westport, Conn. The College of Arts & Sciences students' hope is for the service website to partner with luxury hotels to have their concierges recommend the perfect restaurants for visiting tourists and business professionals.

Image: Business Plan winnersOpen to all undergraduate students at Fairfield, the competition seeks to encourage students' innovative ideas and support the best ones with start-up funds. Many teams had already raised or invested money in their ideas and made plans to launch whether or not they won.

"[The competition] is introducing a whole new style of learning," said Chris Huntley, Ph.D., associate professor of information systems and operations management, who served as competition co-chair with Mukesh Sud, Ph.D., assistant professor of management.

Dr. Donald E. Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, said the judges selected "The Winning Trade" and Team Tasteful because they have the best chances to be viable products in the marketplace. "We see this competition as a terrific way to draw on the innovation and energy of our students."

The five judges of the contest, who have extensive venture capital and entrepreneurial experience, were Hugh Davis '95, co-founder reInvention, LLC; Mary Campbell M.A. '72, managing director of EDF Ventures; Dr. Gibson, Joseph R. Bronson '70, a member of the Fairfield University Board of Trustees and principal of the Bronson Group, LLC; and John Tedesco '92, president and CEO of Contigo Systems Inc. Davis and Campbell, DSB Advisory Council members, donated the prize money.

The competition was built as a result of a three-year initiative in the Department of Management to develop students' capacity in entrepreneurship, including a concentration within management and a new entrepreneurship minor, available to all Fairfield students. For more information about the Dolan School of Business, visit www.fairfield.edu/dsb.

Images: top) Fairfield University accounting major Frank Serravalli, a member of the Class of 2013, third from left, won the Dolan School of Business student business plan competition and received a check for $10,000. He is here with his family and Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, left. bottom) Caption 2: Team Tasteful, a group that created a discovery platform that curates trustworthy recommendations of restaurants, was awarded second place. Founders are Fairfield students (L-R) Brendan O'Brien '13, of Colts Neck, New Jersey; Brendan Carr '13, of Langhorne, Penn.; and Alex Lebow '12, of Westport, Conn.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 27, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 323