First round of business-plan competition set for Friday: Students to compete for a $10,000 prize for best business plan

Posted by Julia Leef

Thirteen students will compete either independently or in teams of two, 10 businesses altogether, in the first round of the 2012 Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition, set for this Friday, Feb. 10 at the Surrey Williamson Inn. The competition will begin at 2:45 p.m. and run until 6 p.m.

Freirich, a member of the Class of 1990 who is now president of Health Monitor Network, started his first business as an undergraduate. Returning as the College's first entrepreneur-in-residence in late 2010, he challenged students to present new-business ideas. Their presentations and ideas inspired him to launch a full-fledged business-plan contest to support student innovation.

"When you challenge yourself beyond your confidence level, that's when you really grow and learn," said Freirich in a statement to last year's finalists.

Freirich decided to create a the competition that would award a $10,000 cash prize to the student or team of students who writes the best plan for a new business, in addition to second- and third-place awards, which will be determined at the finals, set for Friday, April 13.

"The prizes are intended to act as a catalyst to help students start a new business or to assist the development of their existing business," said Roy Rotheim, professor of economics and director of the competition. "We want this to be a profound educational experience for our students, helping them to go beyond the intuitive and arrive at something concrete – and to gain a first-hand understanding of that process."

Each of the businesses will have 15 minutes to present their plan and respond to questions from a panel of seven alumni entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants, lawyers and executives. The six top teams will move on to the finals.

In addition to Freirich, judges in the first round of the competition will include:  

  • Daniel Antonelli '89: managing director, New York Institutional Equity Sales, J.P. Morgan, New York City
  • Darren Herman '04: chief digital media officer at Kirshenbaum, Bond, and Senecal + Co and Director of their Media Kitchen, New York City
  • Elizabeth King Farrell '81: owner and executive chef of Kings' Carriage House Restaurant, New York City
  • Nick MacShane '91: senior managing director, Progress Partners, Inc., Cambridge, MA
  • lan Osetek '91: president, Resolution Media at Omnicom Media Group, Boston , MA
  • Nancy Wekselbaum '73: president, The Gracious Gourmet, Bridgewater, CT

Each of the finalists will be paired with a first-round judge, who will then serve as mentor for the team as it revises and ramps up its plan for the "finals."

Students in this year's competition were required to participate in a weekly business plan writing workshop after submitting their intent to compete forms last semester, conducted by senior Management and Business majors from the Skidmore-Saratoga Entrepreneurial Partnership, which Rotheim directs.

"That extra coaching has produced plans of highly impressive quality," Rotheim said.

Student business propositions include plans centered on a soft biscotti, a custom cooler and a new smartphone application, Grumbul, that will resolve customer service issues.

"My goal is to foster entrepreneurship and create real operating businesses," Freirich said. "I don't want this to be just an academic exercise. I know this can be a life-changing experience for students."  

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