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School Awards $36,000 in Annual Business Plan Competition; Winners Named in High-Potential Ventures and Small Business Categories

April 17, 2009
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   Brian Rechtman
  MBA student Brian Rechtman, first place winner in the 
  High-Potential Ventures category for Blue Tree

The students behind an online auction to raise money for non-profits, a research application utilizing Facebook and a company that refurbishes used furniture took the top prizes in the 7th annual University of Miami Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the School of Business.

In the competition’s High-Potential Ventures category, first place prizes were presented to both graduate and undergraduate student ventures. Brian Rechtman, a School of Business MBA student, won first place and $6,000 for Blue Tree Marketing. The online auction for non-profits and schools aims to increase revenues and awareness for such organizations by reaching out to new donors and opening up a wider audience to their fundraisers. The other first place High-Potential Ventures award and $6,000 went to School of Business undergraduate students Matt Heckert and Stew Berkeley for a start-up called SurveyOsaurus. 

SurveyOsaurus Winners   
Matt Heckert (left) and Stew Berkeley, first place
winners in the High-Potential Ventures category for
The venture promises to deliver marketing research and consumer insights to advertising, research and other corporate clients as an application on Facebook’s third-party party developer platform.

The High-Potential Ventures runner-up award and $3,000 went to John Stieglitz, a graduate student at the University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, for Blue Ocean Aquaculture. The venture is focused on the production and shipment of sustainably-cultured juvenile yellowfin tuna for the billion-dollar global offshore aquaculture industry and the capture-based tuna aquaculture ranching industry.

In the competition’s Small Business category, School of Business undergraduate Jason Eisner and UM School of Communication undergraduate Dane Osborn won first place and $6,000 for their start-up, RefurMadness. The company buys quality used furniture for a low price, restores the furniture to the best quality possible, and then sells it for a profit. The Small Business category runner-up and winner of $3,000 was School of Business undergraduate Brent Martin for ElementalStereo. The venture manufactures and sells stereo systems for golf carts, a product aimed primarily at the increasing population of residents in golf cart retirement communities.  

  Small Business category first place winners, Dane
  Osborn (left) and Jason Eisner, for RefurMadness
“As a leader in entrepreneurship education and research, the School of Business has an important role to play in providing students with the experience, resources, and opportunities they need to create enterprises from the ground up,” said Barbara E. Kahn, dean of the University of Miami School of Business Administration. “This year’s winners, as well as many of the other entries, represent entrepreneurship at its best and we are delighted to give them a boost in their efforts to achieve success in the marketplace.”

Established in 2003, the School’s Business Plan 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, 74 entries were submitted, from which 28 went on to the second stage to be formalized into detailed business plans. From those, 18 finalists were selected to present their ideas on April 16 to a panel of judges that included business executives, entrepreneurs and venture investors. The winners were announced at an awards luncheon April 17.

In addition to the top prizes, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,000 went to School of Business MBA student Tyler Gales, and the Cynthia R. Cohen Strategic Mindshare Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year Award and $1,500 was presented to School of Business undergraduate Isabel Coronado. Heffner Entrepreneurship Internship Fellowships of up to $2,500 for summer internship expenses were awarded to Kathleen McReynolds, Sean Skelton and Eric Stevens, and the Frederick E. Morris III Award in Entrepreneurship and $1,000 was presented to Matt Heckert.

Past winners in the Business Plan Competition have gone on to build their ventures into successful businesses. They include such companies as College Hunks Hauling Junk, BoatHistoryReport.com  and We Wash. More information about the competition and past winners can be found at the competition Web site.
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