SHU Freshmen are Fairfield County’s Next Entrepreneurs

News Story: December 21, 2015

All eyes were upon the nine teams of freshmen from Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business (WCOB) that made the finals of the College’s New Business Plan Presentations. And each team, did its best to serve up ideas and financial forecasts to not only the 200+ peers and faculty members gathered, but also a distinguished panel of judges who would decide who had the best approach. Each team had 15 to 20 minutes to “sell” its business plan through bulleted points projected on a pulldown screen, video clips, demos and even a bit of theater. The event took place on campus Friday, December 11.

Assessing the performances were Sal Ferro, president, CEO and managing partner of Alure Home Improvements; Raymond Galeotti, a member of the Angel Investor Forum on New Haven, CT; Maryne Robin, founder and owner of Nantes Solutions IT consulting firm; Steve Solazzo, who cultivated leaders at IBM; and Rick Robustelli of Robustelli Corporate Services.

Among the final teams were SHU Cuts, proposing an on-campus barbershop; College Essentials Rental Service, offering rentals to students of equipment like irons, cookware and vacuum cleaners; and Translate Mi, selling a language translation device that can be worn on the wrist. SHU Cuts was selected as the winning presentation.

John Chalykoff, dean of the Welch College of Business, welcomed the gathering and got the ball rolling. Midway through the session, he complimented the students’ abilities. “They are 18-year-olds, and they do a fantastic job presenting. I tend to focus on the numbers, and their numbers are realistic. We are very proud of all of them and what they have accomplished in a short period of time.”

Rupendra Paliwal, SHU’s vice president for Strategic Planning and acting provost, agreed. “This is an excellent start for freshmen in the College of Business. They were exposed to different facets of running a business and can now relate these experiences to future courses, which will enhance their learning. This is also helpful for faculty members as we ensure our programs enhance the analytical thinking and communication skills that students will need in the business world. The business plan ideas are not as important necessarily as the skill sets and learning outcomes they achieve.”

Coordinating the presentations was Sean Heffron, director of the WCOB Student Experience and an adjunct professor. One of the presenting students, Maria Ogundolani of the Translate Mi team, said Heffron was a big help in the preparation process. “He was always supportive, giving us ideas and having us build on them,” she said, adding, “Our presentation went precisely how we rehearsed it, and the judges’ reaction was priceless. They responded better than we thought they would.”

Doing some last-minute rehearsing, Caroline Belcher of the Pride Fitness team noted that collaboration between teammates was key. “We all brought good ideas, worked well together and listened to each other. This experience has helped me become a more comfortable presenter and prepared me for what to expect in business,” she said.

Watching her peers compete, student Olivia Savastano admitted she felt “nervous” for the finalists. “I only had to present in front of a class of 30,” she said. “They have all presented well. I have to give them credit.”

Teams were formed from the nine different sections of SHU’s BU 121 “Intro to Business” program. Finalists were chosen from each section. All teams will receive the opportunity to launch their businesses through the Welch College of Business Incubator, which will include startup funds and a professional mentor. The final presentation session was preceded by a group display of posters that summarized the collective business plans (45 in total) generated by the students.