Helder Sebastiao teaches a business management class on entrepreneurship and new ventures, but it takes more than just theory to give his students the necessary tools to succeed.
That’s why he organized the $10,000 USD Business Plan Competition. Now in its second year, the event gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to create a business, formulate a complete business plan and present it in front of judges who are actual members of the business community in San Diego and beyond.
“I can’t replicate what happens in the classroom and this provides the students with as close to a real-world experience as they can get,” Sebastiao said.
The preliminary round of the competition takes place from 1-9 p.m. on Friday, April 17. Six undergraduate teams, comprised of juniors and seniors from the various business disciplines, will compete from 1-4 p.m. in Olin Hall 226 and 229. Three graduate student teams will compete between 6-9 p.m. in Olin Hall 225.
The top four teams will advance to the May 8 final, where they’ll compete for a share of the prize money, which was donated by USD alumnus Tom Breitling ‘91 and Roger and Judy Benson, parents of a graduate alum and local entrepreneurs.
This year’s undergraduate business plan entries (with USD students names listed in parenthesis) are: Bike USA (Julie Walsh and Caroline Charles), SD Renters Report.com (Michael Keating and Christopher Beaty); Vicar Valet Services (Marianne Cornejo and Benjamin Mayberry); Moroguay (Uri Mazal, Rony Aloy and Soukaina Mafoud); Thinami Fit Dips (Tyler Pinkos, Justin Saks and Jonathan Hopstetter) and WaterDance Airlines (Anthony Tsai and Michael Lu).
The graduate business plan competitors are HoneyPal.com (Derek Humbard and Nick Zangari), JShae Instrumental Design (Jeffrey Givens) and No Sweat (Cowanis Duckett Jr.).
The three judges from last year’s inaugural competition are returning for this year’s final round. They are: Tom Breitling, a successful entrepreneur who is currently senior vice president of strategy and development for Wynn Las Vegas; Michael Gallegos, president and CEO of American Property Management Corp. and American Property Hospitality Management; Andy Laats, co-founder and president of Nixon, Inc. Tom Cooper, an entrepreneur who has started seven healthcare companies and is a partner for New York’s Aperture Venture Partners, LLC, is a fourth judge.
Adding an extra judge is one of several tweaks Sebastiao made to the competition. A Feb. 20 kickoff event included a 60-second “elevator speech” by student team leaders and Breitling gave a presentation on his role with Wynn Resorts and answered questions from students. Sebastiao set up two mandatory workshops in March — one for business plan presentation basics and another on preparing financial projections — and he also offered students the chance to work closely with mentors during the development process.
“The teams who worked with mentors did better than those who did not,” Sebastiao said of last year’s participants. “We really encouraged teams more this year to use mentors so they would be better prepared.”
Friday’s preliminary competition is free and is open to all USD students, faculty, alumni and friends.
— Ryan T. Blystone