Bizpitch kicks off 2014 competition

Margaret Ekblom, Staff Writer

The kickoff information session for students interested in the Business Pitch Competition was held on Oct. 7 in the Elaine Langone Center. The Business Pitch Competition consists of University student entrepreneurs competing for the prize money of $1,500 to kick-start their companies.

Last year’s winners were the creators of ScheduleFast, a web tool to help students schedule their classes. The creators of ScheduleFast, Tony Tomashefski ’15 and Zach Crowley ’16, were present at the event to give tips to those who were considering taking on the challenge.

The prospective entrepreneurs were advised that their ideas do not have to be totally original, and that what is more important is how they recreate the idea as their own and inspire others to see it in their way.

Tomashefski explained that execution is key, since an idea chosen by a student might have already been developed. For example, Google wasn’t the first to implement an Internet search engine, Apple wasn’t the first to create an MP3 player, and Facebook wasn’t the first social media website. Creating a course scheduling website isn’t original. The best route is to approach the creation of something, such as a course scheduler, in an innovative way.

Additional important input they provided regarded the range of skills a student needs in order to achieve a great idea. An important skill a student should possess is passion. Students should also think about their ideas in the context of identifying an opportunity and then pursuing it.

“There are definitely different phases in any large scale project. You end up bouncing back and forth between planning, executing, and evaluation stages as you go. All are equally important in my experience,” Tomashefski said.  “It can be pretty hard to stay on task when you don’t have someone else telling you what needs to get done. The most fundamental skill an entrepreneur has is perseverance.”

On Nov. 11, five business ideas will be presented in front of a panel of University alumni. They must present a five-minute speech to explain their ideas and give proof of feasibility. The judges are looking for innovation, professionalism, and composure.

“The main thing is being able to convey your vision clearly. The judges are looking for that ‘wow factor’ and students only have five minutes to make their whole presentation concise,” Director of the Small Business Development Center Steven Stumbris said.

Tomashefski and Crowley both rehearsed their five-minute speeches many times so that it came naturally to them when it came time to present. They ensured that their passion was conveyed to everyone in the room.

“The learning experience of tackling a massive project is tremendous. Even if ScheduleFast isn’t a successful business, in the process, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about developing a website, managing a project, budgeting, business regulation laws, marketing, and strategizing a business plan that I can carry into the workplace,” Tomashefski said.

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