Both Daniel Peña and Amber Martin said they came into the May 7 finals of the third annual University of San Diego $10,000 Business Plan Competition with something to prove — to themselves and to others.
Peña, a senior business finance major, was one of three competitors in the undergraduate division. He said his biggest challenge was to fine tune his 15-minute oral presentation for four professionals serving as judges and to be prepared to answer their questions — especially the ones he wasn’t expecting.
Martin, an MBA student studying corporate social responsibility and international business, finished last out of the four presenters in the graduate division’s preliminary round back in April. Knowing she needed a new approach, she rededicated herself for the final round. “I took all the feedback I got from the (preliminary) judges and I applied everything. I narrowed the scope. My business plan was 100 percent different.”
Their respective plans for success worked. Peña, touting his business, Perfectna FX, claimed the top prize of $2,250 out of a possible $5,000 in the undergraduate pool. Martin, speaking on behalf of ATLAS Fitness Systems, earned $2,000 to claim the graduate division.
The business plan competition, run by Helder Sebastiao, assistant professor of management in the School of Business Administration, gives students a real-world experience. They first develop a business plan for a venture they’re interested in launching and then they go through the steps necessary to present their plan to potential investors.
They are judged by businesspeople from the local, state and national level for the preliminary round and, a few weeks later, get a new group of judges for their final presentations. This year’s finals judges were Tom Breitling ‘90, Jon Carder, Andy Laats and Michael Gallegos (top picture, left to right with Peña, center) for the undergraduate division and Gallegos, Bruce Doyle and Brian Sagi for the graduate division.
Peña’s business, according to his website, is “a Foreign Exchange trading company that targets top international FOREX trading professionals and connects them with everyday investors through the Perfectna FX network.” His company’s ultimate goal is “empowering everyday investors to invest logically.”
Peña, who transferred to USD from San Diego Mesa College and will graduate in fall 2010, said his company has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Peña is aiming for an official business launch in January.
Martin’s business pitch for ATLAS Fitness Systems focused on a nutrition and fitness tracking system that targets personal trainers. The tracking system features a portal and specially designed computer “fit” chip to help trainers track their clients’ progress.
Despite winning the competition, Martin said everything she learned from the experience made her realize that there’s more work ahead. “It was all useful,” she said. “Even though I thought I did well in my presentation, I’m not done. I want to make more changes.”
Speaking of changes, Sebastiao said the business plan competition schedule will be different in 2010-11. He announced plans to split up the event with graduate student teams doing the competition this fall and undergraduates competing next spring.
The remainder of this year’s $10,000 prize money, donated by local entrepreneurs Roger and Judy Benson, parents of a USD graduate alumnus, was handed out as follows: Undergraduate Division: Kelsey Tribes, Champagne Salon and Lounge, $1,500; Adam Tydingco and Philip Yoo, STS Consulting, $1,250. Graduate Division: A three-way tie for second place resulted in the awarding of $1,000 each to Cowanis Duckett of Royal GEM, Inc., Jerry Lang of RaptorCom and Tim Kazules of West Coast Beer Events.
— Ryan T. Blystone