Project Springboard's 'win-win-win' competition

From left to right: Alexis Khazzam, Amy Fairfield Doering, Gerald Hills, Mike Luchies, Suswara Gayam, President Joanne Glasser, Ravinder Punia and Eden Blair.

April 26, 2010

By Nancy Ridgeway

“There’s nothing to do in Peoria” may be a common refrain among Bradley students, but three of their peers are out to prove there are many diverse activities and events in the community.  Toldmi was selected Monday as the winner of the fourth annual Project Springboard business plan competition at Bradley University. The company features an online application students can use to create a list of local events and activities targeted toward their interests.

Finance majors Mike Luchies ’10 from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Suswara Gayam ’10 from Peoria and computer science graduate student Ravinder Punia from India wrote the business plan. “This will create a channel between the campus and the community,” says Gayam. She says the application, available for both computers and cell phones, will complement the University’s alcohol action plan, as it will provide students with options for activities they might enjoy. By micro-blogging, students will be able to share and filter their list of events.

Amy Doering, director of Project Springboard, says the competition is a “win-win-win. It’s a win for our students, a win for Bradley, and a win for Peoria.”

The goal of the competition is to encourage young entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Peoria, says Alexis Khazzam of Junction Ventures LLC, one of the judges and founder of the program. “When I was looking for ideas to invest in, I noticed people under 40 were not presenting business plans. We want to keep these young ideas here in Peoria.”

He says the winners of the first three Project Springboard competitions—iPod Repair Squad, Memwas, and U-Exchange (now—are still in Peoria, living off the businesses they have founded, and 150 Peoria area jobs have been created as a result of these ventures.

The formula for winning the competition is simple, Khazzam says. “We choose the business plan and team best suited to succeed in today’s economy.”

Interim provost Dr. Robert Bolla, one of the judges for the competition, says Toldmi is primed for success. “They have the opportunity to become a national company, and they know how to get there. All the intangibles set Toldmi apart.”

Toldmi was among six finalists in the business plan competition, open to Bradley students in all majors. The finalists made presentations before a panel of five judges, who then asked questions about the business plan and its viability.

As the winning team, Toldmi receives a grand prize valued at more than $120,000. In addition to a $10,000 cash prize and $15,000 in seed capital, the team receives a year of free office space in the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center; consultations with Junction Ventures; marketing assistance from Converse Marketing; insurance advice from Coyle Insurance; legal services from Elias, Meginnes, Riffle & Seghetti; and accounting and technology advice from Clifton Gunderson.

Evening’s Empire Recording Company finished second and received a $7,500 award. The company is proposed as a record label for musicians, by musicians. It was conceived as an affordable way to provide upcoming musicians with the resources necessary to gain exposure in the music industry.  Music and English major Jared Bartman ’10, vocal music performance major Stephanie Meyer ’11, psychology and English major Alfredo Rodriguez ’11, advertising major Max Kerr ’10, and interactive media major Sean Cairns ’12 wrote the business plan.

Earning third place and receiving a $5,000 award is The Paw Spa, a business concept for a high-end pet daycare, boarding and spa treatment center. Targeted toward higher-income pet owners, the business plan also includes more affordable standard packages, as well. Entrepreneurship majors Jennifer Kendzior ’11 and Tricia Nelson ’10 and business management and administration major Krystal Reaux ’11 wrote the business plan.

TAPS Pub received an honorable mention for the best presentation and best financial presentation. TAPS Pub would introduce a bar in which self-operating metered bar taps are on each table. Varieties of Czech Pilsner Urquel beer would be served, along with Czech/German cuisine. The business plan was written by MBA students Svatava Kubankova, Martina Stavikova, and Corey York.

Other finalists include the following:

B-Charged is the company proposed by business legal studies major Kayleigh Thomas ’10, entrepreneurship majors Christina Castro ’11 and Charlie Prochnow ’11, and business management and administration majors Scott Benway ’10 and Clayton Demanes ’10. Their business plan would provide kiosks that would charge electronic devices such as notebook computers, MP3 players and cell phones, while also having security features that would deter individuals from stealing the contents. The kiosks would be placed in academic buildings and other locations on Bradley’s campus.

Beatnex Media would provide online “software as a service” that addresses a need in the independent music industry. Services include automated live show bookings, distribution of music, personalized merchandise retail and tracking of financial transactions. Entrepreneurship major Austin Brandt ’11, interactive media major Gus Childs ’11, engineering major Andres Gomez ’11 and history major Will Murphy ’11 wrote the business plan.

The Project Springboard business plan competition was established in fall of 2006 as the result of a $200,000 gift to Bradley from Khazzam. Its purpose is to encourage students to think entrepreneurially and create a business plan for a new venture. The competition provides real-life experience in business plan development for Bradley students. It supports the University’s entrepreneurship major by continually encouraging and educating aspiring entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up, and early growth stages of potentially high-growth businesses.

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