By Miguel Gonzalez
After months of hard work, three teams of students found themselves in the final round of the seventh annual Mayo Business Plan Competition on Wednesday, April 5, in room 212 of the Education Building.
Each team had to put together a business plan before the end of January if they wanted to compete. The goal of the competition is to “increase student appreciation for the challenge of developing a viable business,” according to the competition’s website.
Nineteen teams originally competed in the first round in February, but in April, only three remained: Neo Book, a mobile application that allows students to trade and purchase textbooks through their phones; Handl, an app that allows users to outsource daily tasks; and Noble Pursuit, a small consulting firm to help small- and medium-sized businesses achieve corporate social responsibility.
A half hour after presentations, the judges made their decision. Handl won first place with a prize amount of $30,000, followed by Neo Book, which won $14,000. Noble Pursuit finished in third place with a prize amount of $6,000.
According to School of Business Dean William W. Keep, each team had 30 minutes to present, and judges could interrupt at any time. This year’s judge panel included four alumni, Eric Szabo (’97), Tracey Caliendo (’00), Joseph Haddock (’97), Gloria Weissbart (’78), and guest Stacy Mattia, a senior banker and senior vice president of Ocean First Bank.
Team Neo Book, led by sophomore computer science major Spencer Viviano and junior marketing major Neophytos Zambas, presented first. Students can register their textbooks to the app by scanning the book’s International Standard Book Number, according to Zambas. The duo hopes to start their business at the College and then spread throughout the tri-state area.
“This competition has been an amazing experience,” Viviano said. “(Neophytos) and I received so much valuable advice from the judges. Quite frankly, I didn’t think we would make our idea come true. At first, we thought about just purchasing books and selling them at a table by Eickhoff. We got this far with patience, resilience and days of hard work. We saw our vision through the end.”
Afterwards, team Handl came up front to present. Led by junior marketing major Carolina Gamarra, senior finance major Tyler Gambardella and senior interactive multimedia major Patrick Monaghan, the presentation emphasized how Handl can provide extra income for students looking for casual work.
Commissioned and certified employees called Handlers can offer labor services to clients such as cleaning kitchens, according to the group. Handl users can monitor their Handler’s progress and pay their hours through PayPal or credit. The group said Handl’s first target market will be Ewing Township, N.J.
Gambardella shares the social media used to market Handl the app. (Miguel Gonzalez / Sports Editor)In addition, Gamarra briefed the room on Handl’s marketing strategy through the use of campus representatives, social media hashtags such as #Handlthis and search engine optimization with GoDaddy.
“I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason and I’m so happy that I jumped at this opportunity when it was presented to me,” Gamarra said.
Gamarra recruited Monaghan while both were studying in London last year.
“I have London to thank for this great opportunity.” Monaghan said.
Noble Pursuit, led by senior management major Kristen Borowski, senior accounting major Carmella Campisano, senior interactive multimedia and communication studies double major Matthew Newman and senior marketing and communication studies double major Sarah Wallin, defined corporate social responsibility as businesses benefitting society and promoting charity.
“We want local companies to institute philanthropy just like larger firms do,” Campisano said. “We had the pleasure of meeting great business owners and getting real-world experience.”
The team argued that Noble Pursuit can help small businesses establish better reputations within their communities. Campisano showcased Noble Pursuit’s influence by exemplifying their consultation work for SmallWorld Coffee in Princeton,N.J. and Artworks in Trenton, N.J.
“It all starts with a simple idea,” Borowski said. “Then, writing, synthesizing and executing it. We all had to utilize our marketing and management skills we learned at the classroom. From the start, our group had good attitude, drive and passion to finalize our business plan. I’m so proud of everyone.”
The Handl team is putting all of the money into app development.
“Winning the Mayo Competition is a humbling experience, and we want to honor that accomplishment by forming a legitimate business venture out of it,” Gambardella said.