Two SU iSchool students place among finalists for $5,000 regional student entrepreneur competition
Two SU iSchool students place among finalists for $5,000 regional student entrepreneur competitionApril 22, 2009Jemeli Tanuijetanui@syr.edu
SU senior Pete Kistler and graduate student Divyalakshmi Rathankumar were among the top five finalists in the Central Upstate Regional Alliance $5,000 Student Business Idea competition.
The $5,000 Student Business Idea competition-now in its third year-was open to high school or college students in the 12-county Central Upstate New York region. Ninety-eight students participated in this year’s competition, the purposes of which were to stimulate creative ideas that hold promise for potential success in the market and reward the future generation of entrepreneurs for innovative thinking with seed capital to start turning their ideas into reality.
Caleb Earl, a senior at Homer High School, won the competition for his idea to develop biodegradable fishing lures to eliminate the environmental impact of the hundreds of lures lost in rivers, ponds and trees each year. The announcement was made at the finals of the alliance’s signature event, the New York’s Creative Core(r) $100,000 Emerging Business Competition, sponsored by M&T Bank and New York Business Development Corp. (NYBDC), among others. The winner was announced during an event Friday, April 17, at SU’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management featuring a keynote address by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The student competition is a parallel competition to the $100,000 Emerging Business Competition.
“We are immensely proud of our students for putting their innovative and cutting-edge business ideas to a test against other exciting ideas from their peers,” says Bruce Kingma, SU associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation. “Syracuse University did a great job hosting Comptroller DiNapoli, the Creative Core finalists and the student business plan finalists who exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University and across Central New York.”
Kistler, a junior from Needham, Mass., studying information management and technology in SU’s School of Information Studies (iSchool), has already launched his business-Brand-Yourself.com-an online reputation management platform for job applicants. The business will use a combination of tools that scour the Web for information on the job seeker-grading the information from a potential employer’s perspective-and also giving pointers on where one can be more active online to build a professional presence based on the applicant’s field. The business will also offer clients additional tools to continue monitoring the Web for new “dirt” and tips on how applicants can keep their online presence “squeaky clean.”
Rathankumar, a graduate student from Bangalore, India, studying telecommunications and network management at the iSchool, qualified for the finals with an idea to launch a custom beer-brewing facility in which clients would have control of their beer-from picking their own mix of ingredients to naming and bottling the beer in their own style. The business would be located in the Syracuse region and target local residents who may be amateur brewers, as well as the special events and customized gifts sector. The business would also feature online sales and an interactive site to help customers create their own beer.
“What we hope to accomplish with our student competition is two fold-show the region and beyond the level of entrepreneurship in this region and encourage students in high school and college to start thinking in terms of business,” says Kevin Schwab, director of communications for the Metropolitan Development Association, a member organization of the Central Upstate Regional Alliance. “The depth of thought and creativity we are seeing is really impressive-and in the case of the student businesses you can see it’s where tomorrow’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs are.”
Kistler says his goal is to get Brand-Yourself.com’s tools into the hands of every job applicant in the United States and then the world. “The Internet touches every aspect of our lives. People need tools to better manage their professional life online. All the conversations that used to occur in the physical world are now being captured permanently on the Web. When employers, first dates, business partners, clients and even friends are Googling you, your future can be determined by what they find,” he says. “I can’t think of a more exciting time to be launching a platform that helps talented people strengthen their online presence, increasing the chances that they can work on meaningful projects that fulfill their potential.”
Kistler, the company CEO, has two business partners who co-founded Brand-Yourself.com: Trace Cohen, a junior at the Whitman School, and Robert Sherman, a senior triple major in information management and technology in the iSchool and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, and finance at Whitman. Brand-Yourself.com was recently recognized by the prestigious Kairos Society as one of the top 100 most innovative student startup companies in the country and also won the marketing award at the 2009 Kairos Summit (one of three awards given out) and placed second in the Whitman School’s annual Panasci Business Plan Competition.
Rathankumar says she got the idea to start the custom-beer making/bottling facility one night when she was having a beer and thinking of what she liked and didn’t like in the flavors. “I realized that the custom beer market was a completely unexplored and untapped market,” Rathankumar says. “And I know that Syracuse is a good place for such a facility since there are so many resources already here-clean water, restaurants conducive to such a business, local farming that will help me make it an organic facility.” She now plans to write a business plan that will help her start soliciting venture capitalists and local business partners.
The Metropolitan Development Association is a not-for-profit planning and economic development organization representing the chief executives of some 200 prominent businesses and institutions in the 12-county Central Upstate Region. The results-driven organization serves as a vehicle for business leaders to become involved in shaping the face of the region for the benefit of all who live here. For more information, visit http://www.mdacny.com.
The Central Upstate Regional Alliance was launched in September 2004 to serve as a vehicle for collaborative regional development. The 42-member, 12-county public-private economic development consortium is building a coalition of regional leaders from business, academia and the public sector, willing to work together on a common agenda. The alliance includes Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Seneca, St. Lawrence and Tompkins counties. For more information, visit http://www.creativecoreny.com.