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University student teams excel in statewide business plan contest

by David Bauman - May 19, 2008

Two teams from the School of Business captured first place in a recent statewide business plan competition that lets students apply their entrepreneurial skills to create and launch new businesses in Connecticut.

And two more were finalists in the contest. Two of the teams were awarded start-up grants.

The competition was sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development in partnership with the Connecticut Venture Group (CVG) – a non-profit group of venture capitalists that seeks to connect members with high-growth emerging companies.

Eighteen teams, including those from UConn, were selected as finalists out of more than 100 entries from eight colleges and universities in the state.

Each of the finalists gave a four-minute presentation that was evaluated based on criteria including definition of the proposed business product/service, definition of the market, competitive advantage, financing structure, and funding source.

There were four categories in the competition: undergraduate personal business, undergraduate venture enterprise, graduate personal business, and graduate venture enterprise.

UConn teams won first place in the two graduate business plan categories.

MBA students Kevin Prechtl and Owen Opena won the graduate new venture enterprise category with their plan for “Optimal Software Solutions,” which would offer businesses automated scheduling and communication service for temporary staffing.

Both Prechtl and Opena, who have taken the business school’s new courses in venture consulting and were among the first group of students to intern at UConn’s Innovation Accelerator, captured the Connecticut Innovations Technology Award of $10,000, as well as the grand prize start-up grant of $25,000.

In the personal business graduate-level category, Margaret Feeney edged out another competitor with her plan for “ETG Hardware”, a proposal to create hardware outlets selling environmentally friendly products.

Feeney is finishing her first year in the Storrs MBA program and is currently participating in the Innovation Accelerator.

Richard Dino, faculty advisor for both winning graduate teams and executive director of University’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, says the UConn teams faced some tough competition.

The awards are “the sort of real world endorsement that tells us that matching our venture consulting curriculum with bright business students is a winning combination for growing new entrepreneurs for the state,” he says.

Business students Mary Barker and Priscilla Borges at the Stamford campus won a $5,000 start-up grant in the undergraduate new personal business category with “Mommie2Mommie,” an exchange web site for mothers and mothers-to-be.

Sam Brewczynski, a business student at Storrs seeking a dual degree in mechanical engineering and management/entrepreneurship, was the fourth UConn finalist with “Boquin”, a media center product that would share music, movies, and TV throughout the home.

All the winners will be invited to present their ideas at a future CVG Angel Investor Forum’s before investors who fund start-up companies, says Mike Roer, executive director of CVG.

“This is a unique opportunity for students first to take their idea through the business plan and funding process, and then to also give them monies towards their business ideas and exposure to investors who may fund their plan as well,” he says.

“The competition is meant to foster the development of business.”

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