Inside USD

USD’s Hopkins Proves to be Well Suited for Success

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

David Hopkins graduates from the University of San Diego this month with a dual BS/BA degree in electrical engineering. Last Friday at the School of Business Administration’s $5,000 Undergraduate Business Plan Competition he made it clear he’s well suited for the future — literally.

Hopkins, sporting a custom-fit dark brown suit, delivered a 15-minute presentation for his business venture, Well Suited, a web-based retail business — — specializing in competitively priced, custom-fitted dress clothes for male college students and budding professionals.

Hopkins’ presentation before four expert judges and his ability to “think fast on my feet” when judges peppered him with questions, earned him $3,000 of the total prize money in the fourth annual event held at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre.

The victory was motivational for Hopkins, who said Well Suited has become his full-time focus, indicating in his business plan that a yearlong, Southern California-based launch is scheduled for September.

“This is something I’m pursuing,” he said. “Some see (this competition) as an exercise, to see what’s it’s like to create a business idea, but for me, I’m going for it. Winning the business plan competition is great. It’s exciting and it’s only the beginning.”

Hopkins, whose idea for Well Suited came during an Intersession class trip to Hong Kong in January 2010 and a side trip to Vietnam, said his winnings are likely to offset the cost of travelling to Vietnam and China this summer. He’s planning to meet with a current business supplier in Vietnam and try to establish additional tailoring contacts overseas.

But the bottom line is for Well Suited to assist college students and young professionals in building their wardrobe and have a well-made, custom-fitted suit to make a good first impression for a big job interview.

“We like to say get Well Suited for Life,” Hopkins said during his presentation. “This is an investment in your career.”

His research revealed that 2.3 million suits are purchased each year. He surveyed 60 local students and included his findings in his business plan. Eighty percent think wearing a suit can help them land a job and 80 percent said having a custom-fitted suit was important. Sixty percent said it was difficult to find a suit that fits well.

“This is a generation of personalization,” Hopkins said. “One size does not fit all or budget. We want to provide our customers with a custom-made suit for the same price as an off-the-rack suit.”

Hopkins topped two other student plans in the event. Cole Gabaldon’s presentation for Otto’s Live, a mid-sized music performance venue in San Diego, earned him $1,500. Andrew Daou and Josh Lubawy’s College Ready Computers, an information technology support company that hires college students with technical expertise to fix other students’ malfunctioning computers on campus or via remote, won $500.

Roger and Judy Benson, parents of a former USD graduate student and entrepreneurs themselves, donated the $5,000 for the event, which was co-sponsored by USD’s Entrepreneurship Club. The judges were Tom Breitling ’91 (BA, Communications), Andy Laats, Trestand Conrique and Michael Gallegos.

“I think the judges were most impressed with David’s command and poise,” said Assistant Professor of Management Helder Sebastiao, PhD, director of the competition. “He had a well organized and appropriately informative and detailed presentation, but the way he delivered it made you confident he really could be successful with this venture.”

Sebastiao said he believed that the other companies gained knowledge from the competition experience and he felt both still have potential to succeed.

Hopkins’ victory came during a very busy last year of college. In addition to the Well Suited business plan, he was completing his required senior engineering project, a “Smart Shower” sustainable system that promotes water conservation by letting users set a shower timer and track water usage from any location. He has also done an internship as a search engine optimization specialist for San Diego’s Internet Marketing, Inc.

He praised USD Engineering’s role in his development, too. “The engineering program has prepared me to be a problem solver and to really think things through. I came to USD thinking I’d major in business administration, but because I liked math and science in high school, it was recommended to me to consider a major in engineering because it’s like getting a degree in problem solving.”

Hopkins’ said his participation in the competition as an engineering student — he’s the first engineering student to win it — is a successful avenue for any student interested in creating a business.

“The business plan competition has been a fantastic experience, probably the most valuable thing I’ve done,” he said. “I encourage everyone interested in starting a business to do it. This is the real deal. If you plan to launch a business, it’s a ton of work, but for me, every time I starting planning things for my business, I got fired up about starting the business.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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