MARCY — Seven teams of students from the Mohawk Valley will compete in the final round of the New York State Business Plan Competition on April 25 in Albany.
The seven were among 30 teams from nine area colleges competing in an April 4 regional qualifying event on the SUNYIT campus.
Student teams pitched their best business ideas to a panel of judges in the hopes of making their dreams a reality.
Organized by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the University at Albany’s School of Business and Syracuse University, and sponsored by the State University of New York and State Employees Federal Credit Union, the annual statewide business plan competition encourages student-led start-ups from accredited colleges throughout the state to submit business plans for a variety of business and industry innovations. Student team efforts are judged by national venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers and entrepreneurs; $500,000 in prizes is awarded to winning teams.
Kate Alcott, program coordinator of continuing and professional education at SUNYIT and the organizer of the regional event, said she is seeing more young people choosing to be self-employed by starting their own businesses. It’s a trend she said can be attributed to the many well-known successful entrepreneurs this generation is familiar with.
“It’s because of people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs,” Alcott said in a news release. “The millennials have been raised with entrepreneurial role models. They’ve seen very young entrepreneurs start their businesses in college. This event’s message to the students is that we love their entrepreneurship, creativity and drive, and we want them to start their businesses in the Mohawk Valley.”
The regional event was sponsored by SUNYIT, SUNY, the Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center, M&T Bank, Mohawk Valley EDGE, Adirondack Bank, Bank of Utica, KeyBank and Fiber Instrument Sales. Sponsor contributions supported case prizes for the winners as well as travel expenses to Albany.
In addition to the competitive presentations, the day was filled with networking opportunities with business leaders in the community, as well as inspiring stories about self-employment from keynote speakers Brett Truett, owner of SoftNoze USA, and Michelle Truett, who owns 484 Design.
While he was attending SUNYIT, before the permanent campus was established, Brett Truett lived in downtown Utica. While many of those around him couldn’t wait to get out of Utica and the Mohawk Valley, as he learned more about the area he discovered it was a place he wanted to stay in and help grow.
“Everyone else wanted out and I looked around at all the buildings and said, ‘I’m going to fill those empty buildings,’” he told the crowd.
Now, Truett says, his local company, SoftNoze USA, is the world’s most experienced integrator of sensors and switches used in industrial controls and factory automation.
Michelle Truett told students to find what works best for them through trial and error.
“You find out what works for you and you do it through the trials and tribulations along the way,” she said.
Truett talked about the freedoms and strengths that come with running your own business; something she says she wouldn’t change for the world.
She works with nonprofits and start-ups doing everything from graphic design to web design and branding.
Among the seven teams scoring highest in their respective categories were two from SUNYIT:
• Jeffrey Reed of Broadalbin and Christopher Pabis of Amsterdam were selected for their pitch of The Core Group, a company that looks to modernize outdated concepts through engineering and advance technology. Their initial application is the AquaAid, a hands-free device to replace the measuring cup that attaches to your faucet and filters, gauges temperature and measures water.
• Kathaleene Riolo of Marcy, Dario Cvijanovic of Utica, James Huchital of Warwick and Ray Mashewske of Penn Yan, for MABEL, a medication alarm system that provides timed and monitored medication release and sends real-time medical notifications to a caregiver and/or a monitoring company.
Other winners were Royal Meadery and Gregory Wilhelm, SUNY Cobleskill; Samuel Matlick, Hamilton College; Alex Lilley and Christopher Dowling, SUNY Delhi; Chelsea Williamson, Utica College; and Fiamma Rieckman, SUNY Cobleskill.
The April 25 event will be at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.