Finalists compete for $15K
Just a few months ago, if you had asked Fairfield seniors Nicole Stark, Stephanie Cruz, Elizabeth Cortez and Bernardo Navarro what they had in common, they probably wouldn’t have been able to give an answer.
Now they would say they share passion for sports and fitness … and a $10,000 check.
On Tuesday, April 16, at 6 p.m., six teams of Fairfield students presented their business plan ideas to a judging panel of alumni and faculty members at the Dolan School of Business dining room. Stark, Cruz, Cortez and Navarro presented their plan for a product called SenseFit.
Each team was given three to five minutes to present its plan. There were two categories of project submissions. The Venture Track consisted of “new businesses with a commercial focus,” while the Social Track consists “new organizations with a social focus addressing a pressing problem that markets have failed to resolve,” said Meg McCaffrey, assistant director of Media Relations at Fairfield. SenseFit won the first place award for the Venture Track.
There were four Venture Track finalists: BluStrip: WattU Control, Good2Go, House N Stuff and SenseFit. The two Social Track finalists included inCognito Climate Controlled Hats and LuxoElemento.
SenseFit began as an engineering assignment, Cortez said. A common interest of athletics, fitness and health drove Stark, Cruz and Cortez to create SenseFit, “a combination of three different data-collecting fitness sensors that are linked wirelessly through a conventional Bluetooth technology and mobile application,” said Cortez.
Their professor then encouraged them to enter the competition, even though the three were reluctant because of their lack of business knowledge. “But when we entered that is when Bernardo [Navarro] found us. He heard about our project and knew we needed help,” Cortez said. “He shares the same passion and enthusiasm we have for sports and fitness so he was a great addition to the team.”
“This competition has opened a lot of doors for us as entrepreneurs,” said Jamie Ramerini ‘13, one of the three students who designed the BluStrip Business Plan. She said that she and her partners, Diego Mamani ’15 and Max Espinoza ‘13, are happy that Fairfield is “encouraging students to be creative and providing us with resources necessary to make our dreams come true.
“We have learned various aspects of the startup industry, as we worked through the many obstacles that come along with being entrepreneurs,” she said. The team was the first of Venture Track finalists to present its product, a power strip embedded with a Bluetooth chip that would allow consumers to sync electronic devices to a single Bluetooth device such as a phone.
Four other students, Michael Franco ‘13, Christopher D’Agostino ‘13, Gabriel Garcia ‘13 and Steven Velez ‘13, formed the second Venture Track team to present. The group presented a plan for a mobile application that would help users seeking “nightlife venues” such as clubs, bars, restaurants and music halls, to find locations offering specials on a given night.
“Tonight means a lot to my group and I,” said Franco. “We’ve worked long hours to put together a Business Plan, brainstorm and put our business to work.”
Engineering student Oliver Dumoulin ’16 presented his website, housenstuff.com, designed for consumers to share and discuss new music. Like the students of SenseFit, he said the plan for the site happened spontaneously and he never imagined it would turn into anything so significant.
InCognito Climate Controlled Hats were developed by Alex Boothe ’16 and Darren Mondezie ’15. The reversible heating and cooling hat “strives to … improve the day-to-day lives of people affected by cancer,” said Boothe.
“We will be donating 10 percent of all profits towards pediatric cancer research in an effort to rid the world of cancer,” he said.
The last to present, Christopher Mandly ‘13 and Dan Maloney ‘13 presented their product LuxoElemento, a solar-powered iPhone case that will benefit poor countries by providing them with sustainable development solutions and solar power technology.
“We both have an intense passion for change and spend a great deal of time researching and reading up on [global] development,” said Mandly.
Joseph Bronson ’70, Mary Campbell ’72, Hugh Davis ’95 and Michael Garvey ’89 served as judges for the Venture Track finalists. Mark Leclair, professor and chair of Economics, Chris Lowney, Board chair-elect, and Winston Tellis ’69 judged the Social Track.
The second place Venture Track prize of $2,000 was awarded to House N Stuff. For the Social Track, inCognito received $5,000 for first place and LuxoElemento received $2,500 for second place. Junior Luis Gonzalez Rios accepted an award of $500 for best semi-finalist.
The awards are funded primarily by alumni sponsors, said Donald Gibson, professor and dean of the Dolan School of Business. This year’s individuals include Mary Lincoln Campbell, MA ’72, Joseph Bronson ’70, Hugh Davis ’95 and Chris Stephens, a member of the DSB Advisory Council.
The entrepreneurship program was established only four years ago, and developed out of the interest of students who pushed the school to develop such a program, Gibson said.
“The competition provides an authentic context for learning about entrepreneurship,” said Chris Huntley, associate professor of information systems. “So, while we could have the competition without the entrepreneurship program, or vice versa, they work hand-in-hand to provide a full-featured learning experience.”
Campbell closed the night with words of encouragement for all the student entrepreneurs. “It goes on not forever, but it goes on for a long time … the advice I like to give to entrepreneurs is just keep putting one foot in front of another and don’t linger at the water stops, and you’ll make it to a great finish line.”