Freshmen Present Concepts at New Business Plan Poster Session

News Story: December 10, 2014

Sacred Heart University experienced a minor outbreak of the dreaded jitters recently, though it was confined to University Commons. There were no openly visible symptoms, and only a small population of freshmen was affected. The catalyst for the sudden onset was the University’s New Business Plan Poster Session and Final Presentations, which required teams of first-year business students from the John F. Welch College of Business (WCOB) to present their business concepts in front of an audience of more than 150 peers, esteemed judges and various faculty—certainly a tall order for mostly unpracticed young people.

There are six “Introduction to Business” courses at SHU, and teams within each section competed earlier in the year to determine a winning group. The six top teams then presented on Friday, December 5, while the 30 runner-up teams showed their respective projects as posters around the perimeter of the room where all were gathered for the showdown. The judges were Patricia Carrol, Gerry Libertelli, Mike Maguire, Jim Randel and even baseball legend Bobby Valentine, SHU’s athletic director. All five have have had something to do with start-ups.

The six final presenting teams had 10 minutes each to lay out their business concept details, which included such information as the business opportunity, value provided, business profile, competitors, planned location/s, financials, competitive advantage, a break-even analysis, marketing strategy, positioning statement, customer benefit, an inspiration board, logo and tagline. Each presentation was then followed by a five-minute Q&A from the judges.

When all was said and done, the team behind Sweet Tooth Bakery, a proposed organic bakery that produces healthy treats made from natural ingredients, won the day. Team members included Devon Conley, Grace Freeman, Olivia Marlow, Chloe Howes and Nichole Tolli. The team came from WCOB Dean John Chalykoff’s section. Second place was awarded to the team behind Find It Stickers, offering small GPS tracking devices for pets, loved ones and valuables, and third place went to Kabs for Kids, a safe transportation alternative for children. The winning team received a plaque that will be etched with their names and hung in the WCOB’s new home in the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center currently under construction on Park Avenue. The team will also receive seed money to actually develop their business concept.

Chalykoff and his fellow Intro to Business professors—SHU President John Petillo, Steve Brown, Anca Micu, Tuvanna Rua and Sean Heffron—were all on hand for the session and were as anxious for the students as the students were about presenting. “This is a part of active and engaged learning, and what better way to learn about business than to start one?” Chalykoff said.

“This is the first time we have done this with business students,” Petillo noted. “In the past, science has been more of the focus. We’re getting students comfortable in their own skin in making presentations. At the same time, it helps them decide if they want to be in business. This is a microcosm. Students really had to think and strategize, developing analytical skills.”

“We help students understand the importance of certain skills as applied to business,” Brown added.

Among the students displaying posters were Monique Cote and Stephanie Miller, representing their concept Always Glowing, offering rental clothing for pregnant women, and Marissa Radesco and Brett Buser, suggesting a campus-based business called Tropical Twister which makes smoothies with customized ingredients.

The session was likened by many to the format of the popular TV series Shark Tank. Coincidentally, Micu said, students had a chance to watch a few episodes of the program as a template for their presentations.

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