Fairfield University's Business Plan Competition winners show imagination and determination

Image: DSB contest winnersStudent teams that designed an advanced health/ fitness monitoring device and a climate-controlled hat for cancer patients were the grand prizewinners of Fairfield University's 2nd annual student Business Plan Competition. A total of $20,000 was awarded at a standing-room only gala final pitch session.

The 'SenseFit' and 'inCognito' teams - made up of students from the Dolan School of Business and the School of Engineering - took home $10,000 and $5,000 in start-up funds respectively, in the 'Venture' and 'Social Enterprise' categories. Judges were business leaders, entrepreneurs and faculty. Open to students university-wide, the eight-month competition is a part of the Dolan School's growing Entrepreneurship Program and speaks to the widespread interest among students in becoming business owners or entrepreneurs. "This event is an example of how Fairfield University integrates students across campus," said Dr. Don Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, " in these winning projects, our business students brought their creative marketing and finance ideas to the technical ideas of engineering students. What a great combination!"

Working with electrical engineering major Darren Mondezie '14, business student Alex Boothe '16, helped come up with the idea for inCognito Climate Controlled Hats after a fight with cancer. He's now cancer free. "When you are in treatment, your body temperature can really fluctuate,' said Boothe, a freshman majoring in marketing and management. "These hats are personal heating and cooling systems that can keep you warm or cool - whatever you want."

The two students met at the competition's Saturday Startup Day earlier in the academic year, which brought together curious self-starters. Fusing together their business and technical acumen, the 'InCognito' team continues to work on a prototype of the $27 hat. They envision it as a big draw for cancer hospital gift shops, cancer organizations and even Fairfield University, complete with a Stag logo on it. James Dugan '85 served as their mentor.

"This is one milestone in our journey to fighting pediatric cancer, and people can expect to see us more in the near future," said Mondezie, of Stratford, Conn.

Image: DSB contest winnersThe "SenseFit" team included three engineering students who play for Fairfield University varsity and club teams. "We wanted to combine the skills we've learned in engineering with our passion for sports," said Elizabeth Cortez '13, who is captain of the women's rugby team and a mechanical engineering major from Chappaqua, N.Y. She was part of a group that designed the wristwatch-type device that uses compact, wireless sensors to read and record heart rate, pulse ox, and muscle activity using conventional Bluetooth technology and an easy to use smartphone application. Estimated to cost about $250, it's targeted for everyone from NCAA athletes in training to baby boomers trying to stay fit to active senior citizens. The team also included Nicole Stark '13, a mechanical engineering major from New York, N.Y.; Stephanie Cruz '13, a software engineering major from Midland Park, N.J.; and Bernardo Navarro '14, an accounting and economics major in the Dolan School.

As a member of the volleyball team, Cruz knows a lot about how teamwork and countless hours of practice can pay off. "I believe that even if we did not win a monetary award, this was a meaningful experience for me that will help me in my future career," said Cruz, who added she was grateful to mentors Mark Willkehr, an entrepreneur, and Associate Professor Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., chairman of mechanical engineering.

The engineering students developed the monitor as part of the School of Engineering's Senior Design course, which challenges students to put all their engineering knowledge to work. Dr. Etemad said the idea for targeting their market on baby boomers and senior citizens was seeded during a presentation made by marketing faculty member John Neal, while Drs. Ryan Munden and Tim Talty lent their technical expertise. "This team consists of three athletes with a win-win mentality, and a bright business major,' pointed out Dr. Etemad. "This was a good opportunity for our students to learn about product commercialization, a major requirement to address when you submit a proposal to government agencies", said Dr. Etemad.  

Stark can see their blueprints of the monitor becoming a reality. "Although we are focusing on graduation for now, we are really excited to continue the development of our product in the future," said Stark, who played varsity soccer for the Stags.

Coming in second place in the Venture category was Oliver Dumoulin '16, a software engineering major who won $2,000 for developing a music promotion web site called 'House N' Stuff' that is already online (see www.housenstuff.com). Second place winners in the Social track were Christopher Mandly '13, an international business major, and Dan Maloney '13, an electrical engineering major, with a plan to market solar-powered iPhone cases.

The competition was made possible by the generous donations of Mary Lincoln Campbell '72; Joseph Bronson '70; Hugh Davis '95; and Chris Stephens. Co-chairing the competition were Dolan School faculty members Drs. Chris Huntley and Mukesh Sud.

For a complete list of finalists, visit www.fairfield.edu/businessplan.


Images: top - (L-R) Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, senior vice president for academic affairs, left, and Dr. Donald Gibson, dean of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, present a $10,000 check to Venture track winners Stephanie Cruz '13, Nicole Stark '13, and Elizabeth Cortez '13. Also a part of their team is Dolan School student Bernardo Navarro '14; bottom - (L-R) Social track winners Alex Boothe '16; and Darren Mondezie '14.

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

Posted on April 24, 2013

Vol. 45, No. 274

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