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Contest draws business ideas from UW-Whitewater students

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Kayla Bunge
May 6, 2010
— Jordan Leahy has had two meetings with a national automotive insurance company and is attending another today.

But he pitched his idea for a teen driver awareness program to a room full of judges, professors and others at the annual Warhawk Business Plan at UW-Whitewater on Wednesday in an attempt to win start-up funding for his business.


Leahy of Mount Horeb is proposing a service that:


-- Invites parents to sign up and slap a bumper sticker with a toll-free number and a unique code on their vehicles.


-- Asks drivers who witness reckless driving, an accident or other emergency to call the toll-free number on the bumper sticker and leave a message.


-- Contacts the parent of the reported teen driver by phone, text message or e-mail.


Leahy was among five contest finalists who presented their plans for a business in an attempt to win prize money. The finalists, some individuals and some teams, had about 10 minutes to lay out their plans and five minutes to answer questions from the panel of six business-savvy judges.


The contest, which is sponsored by the student-run Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, aims to give students a real-life opportunity to develop a business plan, said business professor William Dougan.


“It doesn’t matter whether any of these students ever start a business. They have the chance to go through the process and gain the experience,” he said.


The contest is open to students from all majors and disciplines on campus.


Students who participate go through a rigorous four rounds. They submit ideas; write abstracts that describe their business, their products or services and potential markets; prepare competitive analyses; write business plans; and make pitches to potential investors.


Judges along the way evaluate the business ideas for originality, viability as an enterprise, market potential, social impact and attractiveness as an investment.


Leahy was convincing. He cited alarming statistics about the number of teens killed or injured in traffic accidents every year. He talked of worried parents. But he was not the big winner.


Tyler Sailsbery of Waupaca took home that title and $5,000 for his business, NoMoreDorms.com, a website that connects landlords and renters with college students who can search for off-campus housing that meets their criteria.


The judges clearly thought the teen driver awareness program had promise, however. Leahy was awarded second place and $2,500.


All the finalists, whether or not they received some start-up cash for their business, are likely to make waves in the business world, Dougan said.


“They’re all self-starters. They’re all dedicated. They’re all motivated,” he said. “They know what they’re doing.”


CONTEST FINALISTS

Sailsbery and Leahy were two of the five finalists in the Warhawk Business Plan contest.


The rest were:


Students: Henry Schwartz of Denver, Mike Stirmel of Mukwonago and Mark Wesche of Minneapolis


Business name: Solar Sound


Concept: Headphones with flexible solar panels that can charge batteries and power a music player while the user is working or playing outside.


Finished in: Third place ($1,500). They also were awarded the People’s Choice award.


Students: Sara Amiri of Morocco and Elif Celik of Turkey


Business name: Student Tutor


Concept: An online network that offers academic assistance to domestic and international college students either through peer-to-peer mentoring or paid tutors.


Student: Trevor Santarius of Madison


Business name: Arius Backpacks


Concept: A basic backpack frame with modular add-on compartments that can be customized for a variety of uses.



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