Baruch College Helps Young Entrepreneurs Bring New Ideas to Market

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Names Winners of 2010 Invitational Entrepreneurship Competition

As part of its mission to stimulate and support the emergence of new businesses in New York City, the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College annually hosts a business plan competition for student entrepreneurs. Winners are eligible to receive cash prizes, in-kind support, and seed money totaling $100,000.

The Baruch College and Merrill Lynch Invitational Entrepreneurship Competition involves teams of students who spend almost a year writing, refining, and defending a business plan. The competition has expanded significantly during its eleven-year history, and was recently opened up to other New York City colleges. This year’s winners plan to launch a broad range of business ventures, including innovative software for the visual effects industry, a line of gluten-free baked goods, and an agricultural self-employment project in Nigeria.

Edward Rogoff, professor of Management and former director of the Field Center, reflected on the scope and value of the competition. “Winning the Baruch College Merrill Lynch business plan competition is both a culmination of nearly a year of effort and the exciting beginning of a new venture,” he said. “Many past winners have started thriving businesses and I expect this year’s winners to be among the most successful. In the final analysis, it reminds us that the growth of the economy comes from new businesses started by smart and motivated entrepreneurs.”

The Baruch College and Merrill Lynch Invitational Entrepreneurship Competition has two tracks—a straight business track and a second, social track for non-profits and businesses with a “public good” component. The top 2010 winners include:

Pangea Visual Effects (1st Place, Business Track) The Pangea team was headed by John Mason, a Baruch MBA Honors student. Their winning project: a software package that will enhance and facilitate visual effects in the TV, film and video industries. ($20,000; eligible for $50,000 in start-up funds)

The 3rd Door (2nd Place, Business Track) The team will develop a technology platform for retailers to enhance their e-commerce channel. The 3rd Door team was headed by Kimberly Skelton, a Columbia University MBA student. ($10,000 plus office space; eligible for start-up funds)

Pi (1st Place, Social Benefits Track) The team, headed by Andrea Sorkin, a student in Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, plans to develop a gluten-free line of baked goods. ($20,000; eligible for start-up funds)

On Your Own (2nd Place, Social Benefits Track)
Headed by Madinot Olaniyan, a recent graduate of Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, this team will launch a program of small agriculture-based ventures directed at unemployed Nigerian youth in the township of Oya. ($10,000; eligible for start-up funds)

Kevin Albert, Managing Director of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm, has served as one of the judges of the competition for several years. He explained the thinking of the judges during the final stages of the competition. “We try to sit like an investment committee or a venture capitalist group,” he said of the selection process. “We don’t cut them any slack. We don’t give money to people unless they stand a good chance of pulling it off.”

Past competition winners have launched a variety of successful business ventures, including: Bennu, a company that is manufacturing a stylish backpack constructed entirely of recycled materials; Pandora’s Wish, an on-line wedding gift registry; Blueskies Project, which provides poor and homeless families with free access to work support benefits; Mintfinder, a web-based marketing service that enables e-retailers to provide personalized product recommendations to on-line shoppers; and the South Bronx Food Co-op, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to an underserved community.

“The range of people who want to operate their own businesses is as broad as the services The Field Center provides,” Professor Rogoff noted. “Immigrants, retirees seeking second careers and ambitious young people like our business plan competition winners -- all are the source of new business ideas. Baruch College and the Field Center are here to provide them all with support.”

For more information about the Baruch College Merrill Lynch Invitational Entrepreneurship Competition, visit: http://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/bcec/college