The proposal of three freshmen to build a website where users create a customized “online magazine” won top prize in the first Mayo Business Plan Competition, a contest designed to challenge TCNJ students to not only dream up the next big business idea but also blueprint a course of action for bringing that idea to life.
“Mashup,” the online community/platform conceived by economics major Davis Craig, management major Ryan Dolan, and biology major Frankie Nwafili, would allow users to compile into a single-page interface “all their desired media, news, and information” and share it within the community, said Dolan.
“We spent months working on the concept, programming a mock site, testing different functions and technologies, as well as surveying the desires of our potential market,” said Dolan. “We even launched and operated a full blog to test users’ feedback on certain aspects we plan to incorporate.”
The work paid off handsomely, as the trio beat 15 other student teams to claim the competition’s $12,000 grand prize. The contest was the brainchild of finance professor Herbert Mayo, who wanted to give students an appreciation for the challenges associated with developing a viable business offering and reward those best able to articulate a plan that addresses those challenges. Mayo worked with Dean of the School of Business William Keep to plan and coordinate the competition, and contributed $10,000 for prize money.
Eric Szabo ’97, who served as one of the competition’s judges, was so impressed with the idea that he matched Mayo’s $10,000 donation.
“During this difficult transition phase of the economy, it is so important…to create an out-of-the-box learning environment where students can differentiate themselves while supporting good, marketable ideas,” said Szabo, who is managing director and chief risk officer for Annaly Capital Management. “Society will only emerge from the current economic malaise via continued support of the notion that we need to reward and encourage entrepreneurial activity, as it is [activities like this competition] that stimulate creativity, productivity, and opportunity in our economy.”
Fifteen teams entered the competition, which was open to students from any of TCNJ’s seven schools. An 18-judge panel selected the top six plans, and those teams presented their proposals in February. The top three teams were then asked to further revise and present their plan to a five-judge panel at the finals on April 4.
At the April event, Albert Matlock ’12, Anthony Grullon ’12, Dan Bucher ’12, and Laura Mendez ’14 won the $6,000 second prize for their plan to refurbish and sell vintage clothing products. Frank Piazza ’12, Mike Arnone ’15, and Pat Chirchirillo ’13 claimed the $2,000 third prize for their proposal to make and sell hats.
Keep said he was “impressed by the … passion and creativity” of all contest entrants, as well as by the finalists’ “poise under pressure.”
Craig, Dolan, and Nwafili, who are also developing several applications on top of their platform for merchandising companies, musicians, and nonprofits, said they plan to use their prize money to refine their site in preparation for its official launch this summer.
A logo design contest was held in conjunction with the business plan competition. Junior graphic design major Elvira Logorda’s logo was selected from the 29 received. She received a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card.
Laura Herzog ’12 contributed to this report.