Student Entrepreneurs Vie in Fowler Business Concept Challenge on Oct. 30

Fowler Business Concept Challenge 2020The 2020 Virtual Fowler Business Concept Challenge's 16 semifinalists (17 students) who will compete for $45,000 in scholarship funds on Oct. 30.

The second University of San Diego Fowler Business Concept Challenge, hosted by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Catalyzer, entered this week with 16 semifinalists (17 students) who are pitching their entrepreneurial ideas before community leaders in hopes of securing a piece of $45,000 in scholarship funding available when the winners are announced at a virtual event late afternoon on Friday, Oct. 30.

This event, introduced last year by the USD School of Business’ Catalyzer, is generously supported by Ron and Alexis Fowler, the former who is the executive chairman and co-owner of the San Diego Padres and is a past USD Board of Trustees Chairman.

Impressively, the 2020 FBCC semifinalist group has a wide range of representation among the various USD schools. Eight individual semifinalists are from graduate and undergraduate programs in the School of Business (Carl Dumesle, Omar Araiza, Robert Gavauglio, George Laning, Jennifer Walters, Brianna Jackson, Jack Bonnes and Bella Manning), two each from the College of Arts and Sciences (Harmony Prado, Jennifer Almada), and School of Law (Eden Zakay, Caleb Moser), one Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering (Carlos Hernandez), the Kroc School of Peace Studies (Amanda Larson) and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (Vanessa Ybarra). There’s one two-person team comprised of Taylor Brown (Engineering) and Raquel Kennedy (Business).

According to Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan, PhD, professor and chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Catalyzer’s founding director, semifinalists gave full presentations in front of judges on Tuesday. Register now for the virtual awards ceremony Friday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the Accelevents platform. All 16 will give a 60-second pitch to vie for one of two $1,000 prize for earning the most audience votes. The top teams will then find out how much they’ve won, including the grand prize of $15,000. All 16 semifinalists are guaranteed to earn at least $1,000. 

Kannan, speaking on the eve of Tuesday’s presentations, said student interest and ideas submitted for this year’s Fowler Business Concept Challenge were strong. She also noted gender of the semifinalists with eight females (one declined to state), eight males, and ethnicity with seven of 17 being non-white (one declined to state) and two who identify as Black.

One of the semifinalists is a freshman, Harmony Prado, who came to USD after graduating from San Diego Morse High School. Her idea, called Harmony’s Room, is described as a digital mental health and well-being platform that offers emotional support services for youth.

“Our mission is to champion optimal mental healthcare for teen girls by providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive space with accessible resources,” Prado said.

Another semifinalist, Carl Dumesle, is back among those vying for a second straight Fowler Business Concept Challenge win. The Haitian MBA student, who last year teamed with Canadian Bria d’Amours, also an MBA student, to win the top FBCC prize of $15,000 for their idea called HUGS (Housing for Undergraduate and Graduate Students), has a new idea for 2020.

Anapryze’s mission is to eliminate borders. “We believe that people should not be penalized for starting life in a new country. We are a fintech company that assesses immigrants’ credit worthiness without the need for a U.S. Social Security Number or a pre-existing credit score,” Dumesle said. Anapryze seeks to fill a considerable gap in the U.S. credit system and become the go-to credit data provider for businesses with customers of foreign nationality. “Think of us as the FICO for immigrants,” he added.

The FBCC’s lone two-person team of Taylor Brown and Raquel Kennedy have created You Go Curl, a natural hair subscription box service that partners with various natural hair product companies to make them more accessible and affordable. In addition to the subscription box, a portion of You Go Curl profits will go toward hair car education and will offer girls in underprivileged situations an opportunity to have access to natural hair products for free or at a greatly discounted price.

“We want to give young girls and women the confidence and ability to embrace their natural beauty. As two women who have struggled with finding the right products to take care of our natural curls, we want to extend our knowledge to others so that they, too, can gain confidence and education about hair care,” Brown and Kennedy said.

Each of these semifinalists and all who remain have each been supported by not only the Catalyzer staff, but many student entrants have benefitted from a solid group of local and successful businesspeople who’ve served as coaches and mentors, Kannan said.

In addition to student presentations, Friday’s virtual ceremony will also include comments from USD President James T. Harris, USD School of Business Dean, Timothy Keane, USD Board of Trustees’ Susan Mallory. Among those who've helped judge student presentations are Petco CEO Ron Coughlin, Sony President and COO Mike Fasulo and San Diego Gas and Electric CEO Caroline Winn.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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