MONTCLAIR, NJ - The question of the day at Montclair State University was, "Who wants $10,000?"
TeleBrands President and CEO and MSU alumnus, AJ Khubani, set a $10,000 challenge to university students. TeleBrands is the maker of the "As Seen on TV" products. Ten teams of students competed in the university’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship program directed by Dennis Bone. This program offers hands-on, immersive entrepreneurial experience to students that through 2017 will culminate in TeleBrands Inventors day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.
Along with Khubani, judging the competition were Randy Jackson bassist, singer, award winning record producer and former TV 'American Idol' music competition judge, and Todd Pettingill of WPLJ New York’s Todd and Jayde Show. The panel moderator was Anthony Sullivan (Sully) Founder and CEO of Sullivan Productions and Advertising Pitchman.
The event, which took place Wednesday at University Hall, located on the campus of MSU, was spearheaded by MSU Professors Jason Frasca and Ross Malaga.
Frasca explained, "Students complete three courses to get our nine-credit certificate of entrepreneurship. In some cases, today represents their final exam."
Frasca added that the judges' use a set of criteria to award the prize. He said, “If it is a for-profit business, judges will assess based on the presentation whether it is fundable. If it is a not-for-profit, they will decide whether it is a cause to which they would donate.”
Jackson, Khubani and Pettengill would decide whether the projects presented by the students were fundable. They listened attentively to each presentation, questioning market strategies, anticipated profit margins and a litany of details that would go into making each venture successful.
Sheeq Shopping was pitched as an at-home shopping service for busy individuals, with services including same day delivery, and shopping assistance. Gabriella Carputo, an MSU Junior, met with TAPinto Montclair to make her case for the business model that her team came up with.
Carputo said, “Do you like to shop? … There you go. Many people don’t. Sheeq would be a kiosk in the mall. We would do image consulting, storage of customer personal belongings, and for the person who can’t make it to the mall, we see their wish list on line, buy and deliver the items they wanted.”
Sully, the moderator, introduced the Sheeq team saying, "He wouldn’t need a personal shopper since all he wears is his OxiClean shirt." While a compelling case was made, the judges were not convinced. Jackson was on board with the online portion saying “I like the online component more because I do believe that is the future”, but he was concerned about the image consultant fees and whether the personal shoppers would be able to read his style and likes.
Pettingill joked that many in the audience could benefit from the image consultant services, saying, “Oh you know who you are, some of you need these people really badly.” In the end Sheeq did not take the prize, although he was praised for his efforts.
Tim Kiss, team member of Dollars for Scholars ($4Scholars), explained to TAPinto Montclair that his business idea was an app that would connect homeowners to students in need of income. Kiss said, "Many people in our community have odd jobs they could use some help with. Many students need money. Maybe the homeowners’ kids are off to college, or the owners are elderly and cannot perform some jobs. We would like to solve the issue for both sides.”
Kiss’s mother Linda, stood proud of her son. She said, “My son is competing today, he invented a business where college kids invest in their community.”
Kiss spoke with fondness of the experience of the challenge, “Our teachers helped us think creatively. We had ideas for a business in the first course, which was called Entrepreneurial Mindset. In the second part, the select group of students met and the professors pointed us in the right direction, toward the right model. This is beyond an idea; a real business comes out of this effort.”
As the day came to a close, sat happily in the packed hall anticipating the announcement of the winner.
The runner up was All Star Tailgates, creators of compact outdoor gaming products such as a cooler with a portable extendable 8-foot long table used for social gaming.
The first prize was awarded to $4Scholars. The students signed a pledge that 50% of anything they earn in their business from the homeowner will go to their educational expenses.
Jean Camacho, Timothy Kiss, Sebastian Swoboda and Matthew Szewcyk received the $10,000 prize.
Frasca said of the winners, "$Dollars4Scholars worked incredibly hard at refining their business model and pitch until they it was succinct and clear. They caught onto a winning idea early but struggled to to harness the power of what they captured for many weeks. They never gave up, were persistent in their quest and ultimately were able to deliver a concise message in their pitch that resonated with the crowd and the judges. It is a win that is well deserved."
He continued with praise for the runner-up, "Allstar Tailgate is no less worthy of a victory and should be proud of the individual work they did throughout this semester. Their evolution from fall to spring is significant. And if it is any indication of their drive and passion, they are on their way down the path to success."