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Entrepreneurs take home $34,000 in UM Business Plan Competition

April 24, 2008
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School of Business Hosts Competition for 6th Year

From a technology-driven laundry service to a sustainable aquaculture company that will produce “goggle eye,” the winning entries in the annual entrepreneurship competition sponsored by the University of Miami’s School of Business represent entrepreneurship at its best. The student entrepreneurs were awarded six cash prizes totaling $34,000 April 18 in the business school’s 6th Annual Leigh Rothschild Entrepreneurship Competition, which began last fall with nearly 100 entries. 

In the High-Potential Ventures category, Ronald Hoenig and Aaron Welch, both Masters students at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, won first place and $8,000 for Bait King LLC. The venture is a sustainable aquaculture company that will produce and sell a valuable bait fish, known locally as the “goggle eye,” to bait retailers throughout the state of Florida. The runner-up and winner of $4,000 was 2007 MBA graduate Rodolfo Saccoman, who presented a plan for MyTherapyJournal.com (www.mytherapyjournal.com), which intends to revolutionize the health industry by creating innovative online therapy services and tools. The company currently has more than 2,000 members who are journaling and tracking their life's progress online.

In the Small Business category, business school senior Matt Sinnreich took first place and $8,000 for his business plan for We Wash LLC (www.wewash.com). The company is an innovative laundry pick-up, delivery, wash, and fold service that uses an online registration process and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology for tracking the laundry from start to finish. We Wash will first be implemented at universities, then office buildings, with drop boxes eventually placed on street corners. Business school seniors Nick Gavronsky and Brett Brown won $4,000 as runner-up for CorpSpeak LLC, an enterprise software company that will enable corporations to better manage feedback in ways that increase stakeholder satisfaction and solidify ethical standards.

“Entrepreneurship will continue to be one of the most important drivers of business in the 21st century, which is why fostering entrepreneurship at the student level is a priority for us,” said Barbara Kahn, dean of the University of Miami School of Business. “We heard remarkable business ideas and plans behind them in this year’s competition and I know we will be hearing much more about these entrepreneurs and their ventures in the future.”

Established in 2003 by UM alumnus and successful entrepreneur Leigh M. Rothschild, the competition is open to all University of Miami students. Individuals or teams of students must first submit a concept synopsis, outlining a novel idea for a product, service, or business in one of the two categories. This year, 91 entries were submitted, from which 22 went on to the second stage to be formalized into detailed business plans. Sixteen finalists were then chosen to present to a panel of judges comprising local business executives and venture capitalists from across the country.

“The real value of the competition is not the money,” said Rothschild at the awards ceremony. “The simulation of the real-world experience that these students get by presenting their ideas to the judges is the ultimate dividend.”

In addition to the top prizes, the Cynthia R. Cohen Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year Award and $1,500 was presented to business school senior Christina Villegas and the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,500 was presented to sophomore Alexander Timlin. Twelve other finalist concepts were each awarded a $500 Honorable Mention prize.

Past winners in the Entrepreneurship Competition have gone on to build their ventures into successful businesses. They include Omar Soliman, a 2004 graduate of the UM School of Business and first place winner in the 2004 competition. Soliman launched his idea as College Hunks Hauling Junk in the greater Washington, D.C., area. The company, which removes trash that trash collectors will not take from residential and commercial property, now has 20 employees and is expanding with franchises.
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