Wells' annual Entrepreneurship Week and Be Your Own Boss Business Idea Competition once again brought students from across the college together for an exciting round of lectures, presentations, and programs.
With the help of local entrepreneur mentors and faculty in Wells' Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship, individual students and teams developed original business ideas, refined their pitches, and learned how to plan and prepare an idea while considering the realities of the open market.
The competition, which is open to all Wells students, drew more than 60 registered participants in about 28 teams. Judging is separated by for-profit and social impact, in addition to a special prize for Most Sustainable Business Idea and the new Friends-Family-Faculty division. The latter category allowed students to add one person to the team team who is a friend at another college or university, a family member, a faculty member, or a Wells graduate.
"What we've heard in the past is that students might have a friend or a family member who helped them develop their idea, and they didn't want to 'start the business without them,'" said Kevin Miles, Director of the Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship and coordinator of the competition. "So by adding this category, we can have all the people who contributed to a project involved and helping compete, and they get used to planning, working and presenting together in the event that they might want to move forward with the business."
The judges for the 2017 competition were life coach and director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works Ariana Blossom '06, Wake Up Waffles founder Keegan Evans '15, senior vice president of CenterState CEO Andrew Fish, and Sue Edinger, general manager of the Inns of Aurora. Early in the week, they scored each team's initial written plan and preliminary presentation, the results of which determined the finalists. Those seven teams came together on Thursday for the final presentations.
The winners were:
Schwab's Cider Port – Eliza Schwab '18 and Kent Schwab
1st Place – Memory Makerspace – Charles Noble '17
2nd Place – Pneuma – Olga Babijtchouk '18 and Marshall Kaplan '17
3rd Place – Chocolate Brewery – Keith Davenport '17 and Mitchell McCormick '18
1st Place – Willow Creek Health & Wellness Center-Alyssa Broome '17 and Kelly Reppert '17
2nd Place – DEVOTED – Mackenzie Porter '19
1st Place - Schwab's Cider Port – Eliza Schwab '18 and Kent Schwab
2nd Place – Hemp Sweet Home – Yequarah Conner '19 and Marian Brown
Hemp Sweet Home – Yequarah Conner '19 and Marian Brown
All of the place winners qualified for the NY State Business Plan Competition. Four teams plan to compete: Schwab's Cider Port, Chocolate Brewery, Pneuma and Hemp Sweet Home. The Regional Finals will be held at Syracuse University on March 24, 2017.
"It's common that entrepreneurs will get their startup money by participating in these types of business plan competitions—they might not place every time, but they improve their presentation skills, receive valuable feedback and build confidence as well as making connections with potential investors," said Kevin Miles. "Ideally we would like to see these business ideas coming to fruition. Four of the teams from recent years started their businesses, so we'd like to continue that trend."
In 2016, four teams from Wells College participated in the NY Regional Business Plan Competition. One Wells team placed first in their division and received an automatic bid to the NY State Business Plan Competition Finals in Albany. Three Wells teams placed second in their divisions. The team that competed in the finals was awarded a scholarship to the Student Sandbox, a summer business incubator program sponsored by the Tech Garden in Syracuse. The Wells team also received an investment offer for their company from a venture capitalist from California who was a judge for the finals competition.