A plan to recycle water bottles into comfortable fitness apparel and a business approach catering to the needs of college students studying abroad won top prizes of $15,000 each as part of the annual business plan competitions held at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.
The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies announced the winners of the McCloskey Business Plan Competition and the Social Venture Competition following final-round judging on April 22 and 23 at the Mendoza College.
“The quality of the competition this year has been superb,” said Karen Slaggert, manager of the Notre Dame Business Plan Competitions. “We had a large number of very strong plans entered, ones that showed that kind of vision and positivity that inspires entrepreneurial efforts. A judge remarked that in the five years he’s helped with judging and mentoring, this year’s events were the best he has seen.”
Weekend Student Adventures won the 10th annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition, which is intended for traditional entrepreneurial ventures that have not yet been launched or are at the earliest stages of being launched.
Weekend Student Adventures is a multi-phased, multi-faceted business approach that will cater to the American college student studying abroad. The venture will offer guided destination weekend and week-long packages that feature the optimal balance of educational touring and enjoyable social networking opportunities. Through establishing both a physical location and online service, Weekend Student Adventures plans to partner with stateside universities in order to attract students as its customer base. Team members included Notre Dame senior Andy Steves, junior Helen Lee, and graduate students Patrick Carey and Jeff Harer.
Runner-up in the McCloskey competition was Eptics LLC. Team members included Notre Dame seniors Tyler Hulett and Michael Dean, and Notre Dame alumnus Norbert L. Wiech.
Using a patented technology, Eptics LLC plans to develop and commercialize Progenitex™, a laboratory process that rapidly expands progenitor bone marrow cells collected from umbilical cord blood. The expansion results in a more clinically effective transplantation for adult cancer patients with a reduction in adverse events common to the procedure. Progenitex™ will provide a treatment for many of the 10,000 adults for whom traditional matched donor cells cannot be found in time to be most effective. Progenitex™ meets the requirements of an “orphan drug” classification and will be entitled to the business benefits of the Orphan Drug Act.
Eptics LLC was also honored by receiving the PaceGlobal People’s Choice Best Presentation Award. This award is determined by audience vote for best presentation at the final event.
Morph & Thro won the 9th annual Social Venture Plan Competition. Morph & Thro is an American eco-active wear company designed to promote individual, social and environmental sustainability through fitness apparel created for the modern active person. Morph & Thro’s garments are made domestically from 100-percent recycled plastic (PET) bottles that have been “up-cycled” into durable and comfortable recycled polyester. Team members included 2003 Notre Dame graduate Gerome Sapp and 2004 graduates Glenn Earl and Jim Molinaro.
The runner-up in the Social Venture Competition was Red Carabao, a low-budget hostel that opened in Manila in July 2009. Its mission is to make volunteer tourism a rewarding experience for the traveler, while also supporting local communities through service projects and economic development. Team members included junior Aldrich Anderson and seniors Yang Chen, Andria Seneviratne and Kristine Yuen.
The Palo Alto Best Written Plan Awards went to Virtual Pet Finders in the McCloskey competition, while Red Carabao took the honor in the Social Venture category. Palo Alto Software, a long-standing partner of the Notre Dame Business Plan Competition, provides the teams with Business Plan Pro Premier® software for assistance with writing their business plans.
The Gigot competition began in the fall with more than 350 students participating. Seventy-six business plans advanced to the semifinal round, with 12 teams – six for each competition – moving to the finals. About 150 individuals from the IrishAngels network and other alumni groups served as mentors and judges. Teams must include participation by at least one Notre Dame student or graduate. Prize money this year totaled more than $40,000.
The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies was established in 1998 for the purpose of fostering innovation among current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Through a unique curriculum, business plan competitions and mentoring opportunities with Notre Dame alumni, students gain vital experience and the skills necessary to build successful businesses or to apply entrepreneurship skills within an existing organization.