Four Central Washington University students will be splitting $10,000 in business startup funding for submitting the winning business plans at the 2012 Symposium On University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). This is the second year of the competition, with prize money provided by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation.
"The business plan competition process is a real world experience for students who have a passion and excitement about starting their own business,” said Dr. Roy Savoian, dean of the CWU College of Business. “Students who participate are forced to take an idea, develop a set of details into a written business plan, and then make a presentation to explain how the idea for the business would work. This is just what they will need to do when meeting with potential investors, such as venture capitalists, angel investors, or bankers."
Savoian served as a judge for the business plan competition along with Ron Cridlebaugh, a staff member of the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, and Debbie Strand, owner of Strand Consulting and member of the Kittitas County Chamber,
“They brought real world experience to the competition,” Savoian noted. “Both Ron and Debbie have many years of working with entrepreneurs and developing business plans.”
The top prize of $5,000 went to senior Kassidy Shepherd, from Mount Vernon, for her proposed company “Versi Events,” which would provide customized and quality in-home wine tasting events. The business model is based on in-home jewelry, cookware, and clothing events that have proven extremely successful, Shepherd said.
“Research has shown that wine can be intimidating and Versi Events strives to break down the barriers to increase knowledge and consumption,” she added. “This increase in wine consumption will help boost the local and regional wine economy.”
The emphasis is on educating consumers on the multiple aspects of wine, while providing an irreplaceable experience in a comfortable setting, Shepherd said. As proposed, Versi Events would offer clients personalized and customized events, including for an upper-class couple, experienced wine drinker, those interested in learning about wine, or other social events and gatherings.
Amy Mumma, program coordinator of CWU’s World Wine Program, served as Shepherd’s faculty mentor. "We are very proud of Kassidy,” Mumma said. “The CWU Wine Program strives to give our students the creativity and competitive edge to make a difference in the wine world. Versi Events represents a new model in wine events and education and I’m sure we'll see great things from Kassidy."
Christopher Paulson, senior, Lakewood, received second prize and $3,000 for his business proposal “Hostalaxy,” which would reduce the need for businesses to have their own traditional computer servers. Such servers can prove to be expensive, and offer more resources than a business may need, Paulson said. His business would utilize virtualization technology to sell multiple virtual private servers on one host server, “that act and feel like completely dedicated machines, each running their own independent operating system, so that you gain the benefits of a dedicated server without the price,” he added.
Creating such a system would provide an affordable solution for businesses looking to expand beyond simple shared hosting, but not yet ready for a fully dedicated server, he went on to say.
Information Technology and Administrative Management professor Chet Claar served as Paulson’s faculty mentor. "This is a great example of expanding on existing services and creating a niche business for which there is demonstrable need," he said.
Seniors Andrew Rhome, Kent, and Wesley McClain, Marysville, received third place honors and $2,000 for their “School House Brewery” business proposal—establishing a student-driven brewery to produce craft beer while educating the community on the beer-making process. The School House Brewery mission is "to provide an environment dedicated to the education of craft beer while producing quality craft beer at an affordable price."
“The majority of nano-breweries operating in the Pacific Northwest have doubled in revenue during their first two years of operation,” said Rhome.
McClain added, “A competitor analysis shows that there is no brewery in Washington driven by higher education.”
As proposed, the brewery would draw on the expertise of CWU students and graduates from a variety of programs and majors, including business, recreation and tourism, and the sciences.
Management professor Terri Wilson, who served as Rhome and McClain’s faculty mentor, said, “Their passion and work ethic came through in every meeting that I had with them. The SOURCE Business Plan Competition is the type of capstone project that demonstrates all the skills that students have obtained during their years at CWU. It requires innovative thinking, critical analysis, superior writing skills, and excellent communication of their concept in a presentation in order to win an award.”
Savoian added, “The faculty who mentor these students should be commended for devoting their time and expertise to assisting students develop their idea for a business enterprise. This guidance is critically important for focusing attention on work that needs to be done for a start-up company.”