Nov. 16, 2006

From dormicure to calendars, bright business ideas garner awards at undergraduate competition

"Caddy-It," a storage bag that attaches to a walker for the elderly or infirm, won top honors for its creators, Lorena Alvarez '08 and Heather Burkman '08, at the annual Undergraduate Business Idea Competition, held Nov. 4.

Five groups of undergraduates with an eye for business came away with first- through fifth-place awards from the event, hosted by the undergraduate-run Cornell Entrepreneur Organization (CEO).

Entrepreneurship@Cornell, a universitywide program that supports academic and experiential learning in entrepreneurship for Cornell students and business networking for alumni, sponsored the $3,350 in cash prizes for the competition. The program also provides staff support for CEO. Applied Economics and Management Professor Deborah Streeter is the faculty adviser for the group.

Open to all undergraduates, the contest sought out the brightest business ideas and required a brief presentation using only descriptive handouts, and no technology or prototypes. Finalists presented their products or ideas to a panel of alumni judges who were on campus for the Lynch/Weiss Weekend, a campus visit for Cornell alumni and family members in the greater New York City area.

CEO co-President Nate Pollack '07 said the idea was for students to communicate a clear, marketable business idea simply and concisely. Fifty-nine students participated on teams to create 32 business submissions this year, he said. A panel of Entrepreneurship@Cornell faculty and others had narrowed those down to 10 finalists, of which five winners were chosen by the alumni panel.

Besides the first-place winners, award recipients included:

The vision of Entrepreneurship@Cornell is to "find and foster the entrepreneurial spirit" in every Cornellian, said John Jaquette, program director. The goal of the competition, he added, was to help students gain experience developing a cogent idea about how a business could be created.

"It is always gratifying to see students come from across campus, some of whom have taken business courses, some who have not, come up with solid ideas and experience the sense of self-satisfaction that comes with having their efforts recognized and appreciated in a public forum," Jaquette said.