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Students present in Rohrer Business Plan Competition.

The money is good, of course. Five grand isn’t chump change for college students hoping to launch a company.

But the seventh annual Business Plan Competition, held March 9 by Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business, was about much more than money: it was about developing a product or service, learning how to market it and then presenting an invention or creation to a savvy group of experienced business leaders.


 

Competitive event

Five student teams from Rowan did just that after beating out more than 60 other groups that started in the initial round of the competition in September 2012.

With PowerPoints and product samples in some cases, they showcased their inventions and services and fielded questions from the judges. Those questions were pointed, covering topics such as financial projections and safety and working capital. They came with advice and offers of introductions to major players in the students’ fields, as well.

Said Steve Kozachyn, director of External Affairs for the Rohrer College of Business, “The competition encourages our students from all majors to pursue entrepreneurial ventures and provides them with a forum to present — and test — their ideas and win cash prizes that they can use to help turn their initiatives into reality.”

And the winner is

The $5,000 top prize went to junior entrepreneurship major Marisa Bush, 20, of Mullica Hill, N.J., and her Versa Sneakers Company. Bush designed “The Versa,” a sneaker with an interchangeable bottom that enables wearers to transform the footwear for various activities and save money on their recreational shoe purchases.

A former equine major at another college who transferred to Rowan last semester, Bush conceived of the sneaker based on her own experience and wrote her business plan as part of Professor Kimble Byrd’s New Venture Development class.

“It’s a need that I feel really exists,” she said. “I personally get very tired of having to dish out money for various types of sneakers. I thought no one else is making it, so why don’t I try?”

As for being named the top winner, Bush said, “That was an amazing moment.”

Next steps? She is working on a prototype with Rowan civil and environmental engineering major Matthew Wojcik, and she will use the prize money to fund the prototype.  Additionally, she is pursuing a trademark, and she plans to apply for a patent.

The finalists

  • Second place ($2,500) went to senior management major Kim Masishin of Mt. Laurel, N.J., and Creative Design. Masishin created the Pillow Blanket, a two-in-one product that provides the convenience of having a pillow attached to a fleece blanket.
  • Third place ($1,500) went to junior entrepreneurship major Nina Guerra of De Haven, N.J., for Dance To It Dance Studio, which would bring affordable services with high-quality dance instruction to Cape May County, targeted to customers ranging from 25 to 54 years.
  • The honorable mention winners ($500) were:
    • Senior marketing and entrepreneurship major Alex Kushner of Lawrenceville, N.J., for World Wide Car Key Locator, which would produce a smart phone mobile application to help people find their keys, working by tracking an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip embedded in their key fobs.
    • A Rowan College of Engineering team for its Innovative Belt Solutions, an R&D firm that has developed and plans to patent and license a novel seatbelt design to automobile manufacturers globally that would reduce seatbelt-associated injuries resulting from automobile accidents. The members, all senior mechanical engineering majors, are Mark Schneider, of Swedesboro, N.J.; Stephan Brinckmann, of Clinton, N.J; Mia Korngruen, of Cranford, N.J.; and William Sansalone, of Pittsgrove, N.J.  

 The judges

Judges for the final competition were Howard Lubert, founder, managing partner and senior analyst, SafeHatch LLC, Wayne, Pa.; William Niland, chief business development officer, Vapotherm Inc., Stevensville, Md.; Katherine O’Neill, executive director/investor, JumpStart New Jersey Angel Network, Mt. Laurel, N.J.; Ray Rastelli founder/owner, Rastelli Foods Group, Swedesboro, N.J.; Ed Remster owner/president, SJ Transportation, Inc., Woodstown, N.J.; and Linda Rohrer, president, Rohrer & Sayers Real Estate, Westmont, N.J.

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