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Student entrepreneurs look to shine—and win—in annual Rohrer Business Plan Competition

They’ve found inspiration from their own experiences, their own passions and their own creative energies.

Now, eight Rowan University students will attempt to put their ideas for thriving businesses into action as they compete for top prizes in the eighth annual William G. Rohrer Business Plan Competition on Saturday, March 8.

Presented by Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business, the competition challenges students to pursue entrepreneurial ventures and provides a forum for them to present their ideas before a distinguished panel of judges. Altogether, $10,000 in prize monies is awarded with $5,000 going to the top prize.

During the competition (9 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Eynon Ballroom of the Chamberlain Student Center, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro), students will have just 15 minutes to discuss their venture concepts, outline the viability of their business in the marketplace, and discuss marketing, sales, distribution, management, and the funding needed to grow and succeed.

The competition started with more than 80 entries and has been whittled down to five businesses that will compete in the final round.

“Our Business Plan Competition participants have one word in common: Passion,” says Steve Kozachyn, executive director for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the South Jersey Technology Park. “They have a passion to be their own boss, to control their own destiny.”

The Business Plan Competition’s judges include the following regional business leaders:

- Linda Rohrer, president of Rohrer & Sayers Real Estate of Haddon Township;

- Laura Bishop, managing principal of Laura Bishop Communications of Cedar Brook;

- Douglas Clark, founder, president and CEO of AmeriQuest Business Services of Cherry Hill;

- Anthony Calabrese, CEO of United Computer of Cherry Hill.

The five businesses in the competition include two students presenting independently and three, two-student teams. Here are profiles of each business:

 

At-Home Aquaponics

Chris Morcos of Mahwah (senior entrepreneurship major)

Dave Schubiger of Succassuna (junior liberal studies and humanities/social sciences major)

Morcos and Schubiger have developed a clip-on device that uses natural chemistry to transform fish waste into nutrients. Those nutrients, in turn, are used to grow plants atop aquariums. The mini ecosystem, which keeps fish tanks clean with minimal effort while also growing a flourishing garden, educates consumers—and especially children—about the science behind agriculture.

“You can use the mini-ecosystem to clean the tank and grow herbs and small plants with no added nutrients,” says Morcos, who has used the device to grow jalapeno peppers, basil and even a few cucumbers in the Glassboro house he rents on Main Street.

“It would be a great learning tool, especially for kids. With an initial investment of $13,000 for a mold to develop the device, we could produce each unit for approximately $2.”

 

Livenest, LLC

Alex Grover of Woodstown (senior English and secondary education major with Honors concentration)

Brandon Romano of Hamilton (senior computer science major)

 

Pronounced with a long “I,” Livenest is a mobile application and web development company that has developed Blend, a mobile RSS reader that streams targeted stories to users in a fun, alternative way.

Through Blend, users can create multiple news feeds specifically geared to both general and niche interests. The free app, which is supported by advertising, also allows users to share stories with like-minded users. Users can get the app advertising-free for a nominal $2 fee.

“We’ve been trying to think of new ways that people can digest information. Blend is it,” says Grover, an aspiring novelist.

“With Blend, you can have news feeds specifically dedicated to your interests. The app is almost done. We plan to push this right into marketing.”

 

RhinestOWN Ur Style

Jessica Small of Washington Township (graduate student in counseling in educational settings; 2010 graduate of Rowan’s undergraduate psychology program)

Small wants to bring a little bling to Rowan’s apparel and accessories. She creates handmade upscale decorated apparel and accessories, transforming blank products such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and jewelry into embellished works of art. Thus far, Small has close to 400 individual products, many of which can be customized to suit her customers’ own styles.

She had the idea to start her company in 2010, when she was looking for some Rowan apparel.

“I was looking for something girly and everything was either screen-printed or embroidered,” says Small. “Logos in sparkling decorating material can transform an average-looking t-shirt into an elegant piece of clothing. I hope the Business Plan Competition will help me get the word out to the public about my business.”

 

Spoon Saver

Drew Plumbo of Ventnor (senior entrepreneurship major)

Twenty years ago, Spoon Saver helped Plumbo win his fourth-grade science fair at the Union Avenue School in Margate. Now, Plumbo is looking for bigger things from his device, which could signal the end of silverware caught in the garbage disposal.

Spoon Saver is a simple magnetic ring that sits atop a sink flange, preventing flatware from getting mangled in the garbage disposal. The product allows food waste to flow freely into the disposal, making it a better, less messy alternative to plastic disposal screens. Depending on the manufacturer, the device would retail for around $20.

“I was eating cereal one day and I just thought there had to be something I could develop to catch the silverware other than those nasty drain covers,” says Plumbo. “I was tired of mangled spoons. I really love this product. My challenge is finding a supplier for the type of magnet I want for the cost I want.”

 

Virtual Workout Solutions

Daniel Dawson of Westville (senior entrepreneurship major) and Sherman Szeto of East Brunswick (senor computer science major)

Focusing on a niche market—high school and college institutions—Virtual Workout Solutions is a workout management suite integrated with cloud technology that generates efficiency and value for coaches to optimize their athletes’ performance.

Through a suite of applications on a cloud-based management system, a coach using Virtual Workout Solutions can create workouts, deliver them and track results quickly and easily for sport-specific training.

The system allows coaches to spend less time on preparation work and more time on individual player development. Coaches choose from an exercise database library of more than 2,000 conditioning, strength and drills for athletes to follow and then complete and log their information into their individual virtual profiles. The system then allowed coaches, as well as athletes, to measure progress through an online data delivery system, viewable in each user’s profile.

“We’re aiming to help coaches help their athletes and, in doing so, maximize the potential for athletic programs to have higher success rates,” says Szeto.

“We know this is a viable business,” adds Dawson, a kicker on Rowan’s football team. “We both come from sports backgrounds and we’re very passionate that this will help high school coaches help their athletes reach their highest level of performance.”

For more on the business plan competition, visit http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/business/cie/BPComp.html

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