Annual Business Idea Competition

Wells’ annual Business Idea Competition celebrates students’ ground-breaking innovation as teams from multiple majors and class years work together to design either a for-profit or not-for-profit business.

"I find it very comfortable as well as a prestigious thing to share knowledge and to see how the next generation is contributing to economic development."

Gehan Dhameeth
Assistant Professor of Business; Chair, Business Program

Under the guidance of Wells' Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship, the event promotes a well-rounded, fundamental understanding of key interdisciplinary practices essential to the success of any organization. Entrepreneur Week also includes lectures from successful entrepreneurial CEOs of both for-profit and not-for-profit companies.

Each team is required to submit a written business plan and challenged with the task of pitching their original business idea to a panel of judges. With the mentorship of faculty professionals, the student entrepreneurs work together to learn critical reasoning and communication skills required for leadership roles within any career pathway. The winners in each field earn cash awards, with the potential of additional incentives to pursue their business' start-up campaign and give rise to a brand new real-world business.

2015

The competition, held in the newly-renovated Zabriskie Hall, brought together 41 student teams competing for $7,000 in prizes with their original and innovative business ideas in for-profit, non-profit and social impact arenas. The grand prize went to "Jaunt," the brainchild of Matthew Getch '15 (a Computer Science major from Cali. with a minor in Mathematics), Valerie Schweigert '16 (a Sociology and Anthropolgy major, minoring in Business, from Texas), Jake Smith '16 (a New Yorker majoring in Film and Media Studies) and Chazz Noble '17 (from N.J. and an undeclared major). The students' service would allow customers to input a date, budget and a few keywords and result in a pre-planned but entirely spontaneous—and even secret—vacation. Other winners included a fitness-focused food truck and a drive-through restaurant offering health food.

Throughout the week, faculty and alumnae guest speakers and judges served as advisors and mentors to the aspiring entrepreneurs. The mentoring focused on the presentation of the business idea itself, as judges deliberated over the student's creative concepts and met with student teams individually to review their written business plans in addition to judging their presentations. One of the guest speakers for the week, Jennifer Pelton '92, gave a talk titled "Insider Secrets about the Non-Profit Job Market." Pelton, who is director of development at The Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Md., shared information about the professional path that brought her to her current role, a typical day in her career, the importance of mentors, and how to generate opportunities and explore interests through internships.

The keynote speaker, Miki Agrawal, is the founder of several businesses in areas including New York City, Las Vegas and Sri Lanka, including the farm-to-table, alternative pizza concept WILD, for which she partnered with the CEO of Zappos.com. In her talk,"Do Cool Sh*t," also the title of her best-selling book, Agrawal mentioned that she regularly corresponds with former President Bill Clinton to address social impact and women's issues.

2014

The re-branded "Be Your Own Boss" Business Idea Competition created a flurry of activity at Wells. The week kicked off with a talk by Dave Brandt, head coach of the U.S. Naval Academy soccer team. Brandt became an entrepreneur in order to follow his passion, building a successful business in addition to his remarkable coaching career. Keynote speaker Jessica Jackley, a liberal arts major, gave a remarkable lecture on how during her experience as volunteer in Haiti and Africa she came to realize that people in developing countries wanted more direct opportunities to improve the lives of their families. This led to the development of her not-for-profit company, Kiva.org, which has enabled 1 million people to loan $500 million to low-income or underserved entrepreneurs around the world.

The prize winners in the For Profit track were:

  • First Place: Constantinos (Costa) Frangeskides '14 and Sarah Paddock '16 (Sky Hi Photos)
  • Second Place: Alexander (Alex) Milliken '17 (Eyes of You)
  • Third Place: Charles (Chazz) Noble '17 (8 Bit Events)
  • Fourth Place: Dauris Little '14, Haniyyah Bashir '14, Jonathan (Jon) Bonds '14 and Stephen Domfeh '16 (Prep You)
  • Fifth Place: Keegan Evans '15 (Parker Lane Productions)

The prize winners in the Social Impact track were:

  • First Place (tie): Jessica Gulvin '16, Emily Guzman '16 and Norma Valdez '16 (Heart of Gold)
  • First Place (tie): Aviv Hilbig-Bokaer '17 (Wells College Farm)
  • Third Place: Annalise Van Vranken '14 Alex Cakmak '14, Colleen Willis '14 and Rebecca Wind '14 (Oy Ya Pots)

2013

All students who participated in the 2013 Entrepreneur Week demonstrated ingenuity and ambition as they presented their ideas. They developed their projects with the assistance of Wells' Entrepreneur in Residence Jon Greene and came prepared to discuss the product or service provided, the value and benefits they would deliver to customers, their target market and marketing strategy, and the way that it would relate to the closest competition. Additionally, the first- and second-place winners were again eligible to take advantage of award money to carry out their business plan.

The competition also included an ice cream social in the lobby of Stratton Hall, giving the participants the chance to sample Sundaes Best Hot Fudge Sauce, the specialty of alumna entrepreneur and keynote speaker Katie Camarro '85. Katie's talk covered her experiences leading up to the founding of her company, some of the challenges she had faced and solutions she found, and the rewards of forming the skills and relationships that helped her succeed.

The 2013 Entrepreneur Week Winners were:

  • First Prize – Dauris Little '14 (Tech Guyz)
  • Second Prize – Monika Savannah Tucker '15 / Tyler Fishetti '15 (Speed of Light)
  • Third Prize – Keegan Evans '15 (Parker Lane Productions)
  • Wildcard prizes – Beverly Wallenstein '16 (My Yoga Experience) and Nellye Archibald '14 (Gabon Souvenir)
  • Honorable Mentions – Wyatt Buerkle '16 (Solpow), Katie Eidem '16 (Temp Keep), and Muath Alawi '16 / Steven Domfeh '16 (Prep Station)

2012

In 2012, twenty-three Wells students spent Entrepreneur Week discussing their business ventures, refining projects, and preparing to present their ideas. Audience members also played a crucial role in rewarding the work of these students. Attendees were given pretend money to "invest" in the ideas that they found the most promising; the amount that each collected was awarded to the team as a prize and factored into the judging process and the special awards. Keynote speaker Julie Shimer, CEO of Welch Allyn and founder of Blue Highway, gave a special lecture on entrepreneurship.

Winners of the 2012 Entrepreneur Week were:

Social Entrepreneurship

  • First Place: Chris Guard '12 and Mitch Moulton '12 (Next Stepping Stone)
  • Second Place: Sara Spezzano '12 and Alanna Verderber '12 (Empowering Yourself)

Business Entrepreneurship

  • First Place: Colin Evans '12 and Alex Riad '12 (Flushies)
  • Second Place (tie): Julie Kang '13, Emily Mulkerne '12, Brenna Toomey '13, Olivia Touron '15, and Brynn Wilkinson '13 (Bring on the Heat); Jessica Alicea '14 and Melissa Fortin '14 (Moviepalooza)

2011

The inaugural Entrepreneurship Week was held shortly after Wells added business and entrepreneurship courses of study. In the for-profit category, students were measured on their business plan, revenue generation, and likelihood of becoming an actual product. In the not-for-profit category, judging criteria included number of people helped, number of people potentially helped, scale of social ill, and likelihood of alleviating social ill. All students were also judged on the quality and passion of their presentations.

The contest elicited 45 participants, all of whom received a reward for presenting their ideas.

In the not-for-profit category, Jessica Alicea, a first-year student from Salisbury Mills, N.Y., and Melissa Fortin, a first-year student from Alton, N.H., bested six other teams with their concept to fund the SPCA through pet sitting and pet rental for stress reduction at Wells College.

In the for-profit category, Kasia Jandura-Cessna, a first-year student from New Hartford, N.Y., and Alev Cakmak, a first-year student from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., beat five other teams with their development plan for a new training golf club.

Entrepreneurship Week has been made possible, in part, by a gift in memory of Louise Bingham Hatch, Wells College Class of '38, from her family.

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