'VentureOut' and 'BoneSmart' win Fairfield University's 3rd annual student Business Plan Competition


Prize money totaling $20,000 split among the winners. Students had just minutes to make their final pitches to a distinguished panel of judges.

Image: Bone

Innovative ideas for an app to revolutionize the scope of social, platonic meet-ups and a wearable, infrared bone densitometer to easily detect weakness in bones were the grand prize-winners of Fairfield University's Business Plan Competition. The Fairfield University undergraduates behind those ideas took home $7,000 (venture track) and $5,000 (social track) in prize money respectively at the April 14, 2014 finals attended by a standing room only crowd at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

Plans for a golf course management system and a website to donate textbooks to help students who can't afford them were the runners-up in the venture and social tracks, receiving $3,000 and $2,500 each in the process.

"These student teams showed that entrepreneurism and innovation is alive and well at Fairfield," Dr. Donald E. Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, told the audience of about 200 which included proud family members, alumni, faculty, students and friends. "Our quest is to develop these ideas into viable businesses. To help them, the winners will get a chance at being clients of FAME [the Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise], our business incubator in downtown Fairfield."

The finalists included an industrious and imaginative mix of undergraduate students from Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering and College of Arts & Sciences who pooled their knowledge and skill sets to develop viable business plans. The prize money will go to further developing those business ideas.

The contest had a fever pitch as student teams had just six minutes to make their business plan presentations to an impressive panel of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and faculty members. "We admire you for your dedication and passion," said Associate Professor Chris Huntley, Ph.D., who co-chaired the competition with Dolan School colleague Mukesh Sud, Ph.D.

Image: Venture Out

The venture track consisted of new business ideas with a commercial focus. The winners were 'VentureOut' - an app to enable young professionals to gain access to microcosms of platonic, social meet-ups so that they can cultivate new friendships and network. The student team members are seniors Jennifer Le, an English major, with a double minor in marketing and biology; Gina Biondi, of West Haven, Conn., a double major in accounting and Information Systems; and Jessica Mendes, of Boston, Mass., a communication major. Mentors were Gene Mauro '92, Pearson/Consultant, and Matt Powers '03, chief technology officer, Applico Inc.

Coming in second was 'Valet,' a multi-faceted tool to benefit golfers and golf courses/golf shops accessible from any web-enabled device, developed by seniors Cody Reinold, of Sutton, Mass., and Anthony Mingolello, of Shelton, Conn., both Information Systems & Operations Management majors. Mike Roer, president of the Entrepreneurship Foundation, Inc., was their mentor. Receiving $1,000 each were two other teams: 'Glove Guard' and 'The Match University.'

The social track consisted of new organizations that attempt to resolve a pressing social problem that markets have failed to resolve. The winners were BoneSmart - a wearable, wireless, non-invasive medical device that will measure bone density and blood flow. Team members are Robert Garrone, of Town of Islip, N.Y., an electrical engineering major; Ralph Belfiore, an accounting major; Bernardo Navarro, of Bethel, Conn., an accounting and economics double major; Stephanie Sutherby, of Ipswich, Massachusetts, a mechanical engineering major; and Michael Raymond, of Amityville, Long Island, N.Y., an electrical engineering major. The device is also being developed for the School of Engineering's Senior Design course. Mentors are engineering faculty members Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., and Ryan Munden, Ph.D., as well as mentor coordinator David Murray, vice president, Integrated Sales and Marketing, NCM Media Networks.

The runner-up was 'UXchange' - an organization that takes items that college students carelessly throw away like books and works with social agencies to donate them to those in need. The plan calls for UXchange to also auction or donate dorm room supplies.  Team members are Guadalupe Ramirez '16, of Bridgeport, Conn., an Information Systems major; Rheem Al Barazi '16, of Morocco, who is studying international business; and John Bica, of Shelton, Conn. Vishnu Vinekar, Ph.D., associate professor of Information Systems, was their mentor.

Image: Business plan winners

The competition is a three-year old endeavor that has introduced "a whole new style of learning" to students interested in entrepreneurism, and complements the Dolan School of Business's popular Entrepreneurship Program offerings. That program has also led to the FAME, a business incubator program that was launched last year with the Town of Fairfield and Kleban Properties.

The competition kicked off last fall to much fanfare. It was made possible by generous donations from Mary Lincoln Campbell MA '72; Joseph Bronson '70; Hugh Davis '95; and Chris Stephens. Faculty from the Dolan School, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Engineering served as advisors to student teams as did business professionals and alumni. Patricia Pivarnik, program coordinator for the Dolan School, also helped with the endeavor.

The Entrepreneurship Program at the Dolan School of Business began in the Management Department in response to robust interest from students wishing to become entrepreneurs or business owners. For more information about all who made the competition happen, visit www.fairfield.edu/businessplan.            

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Images:
BoneSmart (L-R) Michael Raymond, Stephanie Sutherby, Robert Garrone, Ralph Belfiore, Dr. Gibson, and Bernardo Navarro.
VentureOut (L-R) Gina Biondi, Jennifer Le, Dr. Donald Gibson, and Jessica Mendes.
Winning Teams: Pictured are the winning team members and their mentors of the Fairfield University's 3rd Annual Business Plan Competition. At far right is mentor coordinator David Murray, vice president, Integrated Sales and Marketing, NCM Media Networks.

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

Posted on April 22, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 278