Profiting from business
Values & Ventures Competition rewards social entrepreneurs
by Kathryn Hopper
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Dylan Fox and Zachary Herman accept the first-place prize from M.J. Neeley School of Business dean O. Homer Erekson '74 at the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition banquet. (Photography by B.J. Lacasse)
What if, instead of holding a bake sale, small organizations could raise money by rewarding their financial supporters in other ways like handing out discounts and deals?
That was the idea behind the winning entry in the third annual Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition hosted by the Neeley School of Business April 19-20.
Dylan Fox and Zachary Herman’s online tool for small organizations that rewards donors with coupons and discounts won out over 27 other socially conscious for-profit business plans to earn first place and $15,000 in the competition.
The George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) team was one of 28 teams from around the world competing in the annual springtime entrepreneurship competition for undergraduate college students. The competition is different than other business plan competitions because the for-profit startup presented must also contribute social value in some way.
The GWU team impressed judges with their entrepreneurial concept and presentation for Crowdvance (www.crowdvance.com), an online fundraising tool for small organizations such as youth sports teams, student groups and small nonprofits that rewards donors with discounts, coupons and other deals from partner companies.
The brainchild of Fox, who wanted a better way to raise money for college clubs he belongs to, Crowdvance is already up and running, helping clubs and organizations raise funds by rewarding donors with exclusive deals and discounts.
“The winnings from Values and Ventures will help us keep Crowdvance going and helping more organizations,” Fox said.
Herman said that the Values and Ventures competition opened his eyes to many great socially conscious entrepreneurship projects. “These are some of the most influential and passionate students I’ve had the pleasure to meet. It’s so great knowing there are kids out there like us, trying to make a difference in the world and make it better.”
The team from Christopher Newport University, located in Newport News, Va. won second place and $10,000 for their plan for SoundSense, a home communications system for the hearing impaired that provides visual or physical alerts to oven timers, doorbells, baby monitors, phone calls and fire alarms through an integrated system. Andrew McGregor thought up the idea to help his hearing impaired parents.
“The idea originated in my home, and I brought it to these guys (Edward Pekalski and Ethan Emanuele) because I knew they could help me make it happen,” Andrew said.
Third place and $10,000 went to the team from TCU, Molly Johnson and Brooke Bettis, for Sneez4, tissues in environmental packaging with a part of proceeds allocated by the consumer to one of four causes: Alzheimer’s Association, Wounded Warriors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Feeding America.
“We are proud of what we’ve accomplished and hope to make this a viable business in the near future,” Johnson said.
“This weekend proved to us that many others see viability behind our idea, and that is really encouraging,” Bettis added.
Fourth place and $1,000 went to Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Okla.) for Virtue and Veneration, a paid service (initial offering free) to family and close friends of American soldiers killed in action that places flowers on gravesites and records virtual cemetery tours for those who live far from the cemetery.
Fifth place and $1,000 went to St. Mary’s University (San Antonio, Texas) for One World Training, employing veterans to provide qualified police training in Honduras to increase local police competency and deter rising crime rates.
Sixth place and $1,000 went to Chapman University (Orange, Calif.) for SunChild Collective LLC, a curated online marketplace for trendy fashions and goods created by artisans around the world, combined with a mission to support artisans in their trade.
A special Founders Award of $2,500 each went to University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) for REVIVE, a recycling company that gathers coffee grounds from the coffee/hospitality industry to produce a 100% organic fertilizer; and The University of Tampa (Tampa, Fla.) for Ambrosia Global, which franchises fully contained, sustainable agricultural production systems (aquaponics) to food-insecure areas to provide localized food production through a scalable system.
“As a world-class, values-centered university, this competition is truly a sweet spot for TCU and the Neeley School, promoting innovative entrepreneurial startups which add value and meaning in important ways,” said O. Homer Erekson ‘74, John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School of Business at TCU.
Other teams taking part were from Appalachian State University, Baylor University, Grand Valley State University, J. J. Strossmayer University (Croatia), Monterrey Institute of Technology (Mexico), Regis University, Royal Roads University (Canada), Samford University, Southern Methodist University, Syracuse University, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Houston, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Villanova University, Wake Forest University and Walsh University.
Thirty judges participated in the two-day competition. Judging the final competition were Elliott Hill ‘86, president of Nike North America; Stacy Steimel, managing director and head of Latin American equities for PineBridge Investments; Paul Spiegelman, chief culture officer for Stericycle; Jan Norton, coach, author, speaker and angel investor; and Chris Kraft, president, CEO and co-founder of Splash Media.
“Judging this entrepreneurship competition is humbling and inspiring,” Hill said. “These students, age 18 to 22, are very impressive, poised and competent.”
Steimel said that she enjoyed seeing “these young people act out their passion for their plan, to test how much they believe in their product and how viable it is as a business. I also really like the values component to this competition, because it should never just be all about profit.”