Cinching the Competition

From left to right: team members Ivan Gonzalez-Gimenez and Ryan Miller, Dr. Gerald Hills, Zachary Saigh, Mark Harbaugh and Scott Harbaugh

April 24, 2012

With more electronic devices demanding more power, keeping them charged and portable is a growing concern for businesses and users.

“Battery life is number one,” said Ryan Miller, a senior in mechanical engineering and business administration. “Mobile devices are going to stay mobile.”

This challenge drove a three-student team to build a prototype belt that users wear to charge cellphones and possibly other mobile devices. The first-generation E.E.L. (Enclosed Electric Loop) belt weighs roughly 5 pounds and would retail for about $69.95, giving clients a safe, small and rugged way to stay plugged in.

The team, Liveable Tech, which includes Miller, seniors Ivan Gonzalez-Gimenez and Zachary Saigh, and their battery-charging belt took first prize at the 6th annual Project Springboard Business Plan Competition.

Project Springboard provides real-life experience in developing business plans created by Bradley students. This project encourages students to work together across disciplines to become budding entrepreneurs in the formation, start up and early growth stages of promising businesses.

“The Springboard competition fits perfectly with Bradley’s mission of experiential learning,” said Dr. David Glassman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, who helped judge the competition. “These students are working outside of the classroom, using the tools they learned in the classroom, to present opportunities to move forward in business in an extraordinary way.”

Valued at more than $100,000, the first place prize includes a $7,500 cash prize, underwritten by Ditch Witch Midwest/The Harbaugh Family, consulting services from Junction Ventures; office space at the Peoria Next Innovation Center; marketing consultation from Converse Marketing; insurance advice from Coyle Insurance; legal services from Elias, Meginnes, Riffle and Seghetti, P.C., and accounting and technology services from CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP.

Six teams competed in the final round of this year’s Springboard contest. Apptix, which aims to design and program online applications for local businesses to reach customers on their mobile devices, took second place in the competition, winning $4,000. Third place and $2,500 went to Dress to Impress for Less, which hopes to sell second-hand, gently-used business attire to young professionals from a storefront near Bradley’s campus.

The finalist teams were selected from a pool of more than 20 groups who submitted their business plans in the fall. Many of the finalists said they would pursue their ventures even if they did not win the competition. 

“In the fall, we started with 22 teams that had an idea with hopes and aspiration to be that number one,” said Amy Fairfield Doering, director of Project Springboard. “They all have done a good job getting here and I believe that they will someday be successful entrepreneurs.”

The competition, open to Bradley students in all majors, was established in spring 2007 as a result of a $200,000 gift from Alexis Khazzam of Junction Ventures LLC to the University. Khazzam said more than 200 local jobs have been created since 2006 thanks to the ideas generated from the project.