Inside USD

USD Students Set for Business Competition

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Four University of San Diego students with ideas for new business ventures will present them before a panel of  judges as they vie for a share of $5,000 at the fourth annual Undergraduate Business Plan Competition at 1 p.m. Friday, May 6 in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre.

“The intent is to give the students as close to a real-world experience as possible and what it’s like to present your idea to prospective investors,” said Helder Sebastiao, PhD, assistant professor of management in the School of Business Administration and faculty advisor to USD’s Entrepreneurship Club, which is sponsoring the competition.

The students seeking a share of the prize money are Andrew Daou and Josh Lubawy (College Ready Computers), Cole Gabaldon (Otto’s Live) and David Hopkins (Well Suited).

College Ready Computers is an information technology support company that hires college students with technical expertise to fix other students’ malfunctioning computers on campus or via remote, thus making the process more affordable and convenient for students. Daou and Lubawy’s presentation opens Friday’s competition from 1:05 to 1:50 p.m.

Gabaldon’s business idea is Otto’s Live, a nightclub he stated will set a new standard for mid-sized music performance venues in San Diego. Gabaldon’s presentation runs from 1:55 to 2:40 p.m.

Hopkins’ Well Suited is a web-based retailer to provide competitively priced, custom-fitted dress clothes targeting college students and budding professionals. Hopkins’ presentation takes place from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m.

Each student business gets 45 minutes to persuade a four-judge panel that their plan and presentation are the best. A good portion of the time allotted lets judges ask questions about any aspect of the business plan, the business itself and often provides constructive criticism to aid the students in the development of their business idea. Each group is guaranteed $500 from the competition, but the remaining $3,500 is up for grabs. The announcement of the prize money, which was donated by Roger and Judy Benson, parents of a former USD graduate student and entrepreneurs themselves, takes place shortly before 4 p.m. A post-competition reception and networking opportunity, hosted by USD’s E-Club, takes place in the IPJ from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The judges for Friday’s competition are Tom Breitling ’91 (BA, Communications), Andy Laats, Trestand “Tres” Conrique and Michael Gallegos, each of whom have been part of the panel in past years.

Sebastiao, who started this competition for USD graduate and undergraduate students in 2008, said he’s pleased with what the competition has generated.

“My goal when I came here was to build something that would be sustainable. I honestly believe in the power of people. For it to continue each year, it’s up to the students in the E-Club and motivated students to keep it going.”

This academic year, for the first time, Sebastiao split the two competitions into separate semesters. The graduate business plan competition took place in December. HydrAlchemy, an indoor gardening system, earned MBA students Chris McCoy, Fred Fernandez and Colby Young $2,500 of the $5,000 prize pool.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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