In a spirited competition featuring a record six finalists, Dining Clue was chosen as the winner of the College of Business Administration’s 2nd Annual Business Pitch Competition held March 27, 2014.
Three esteemed Niagara alumni (Bud Crumlish, ’76, Karen Howard, ’84, and Rocco Surace, ’77) graciously gave their time to put the brave students through a more genteel version of the popular TV show, Shark Tank. The groups held up well, making it a difficult decision for the judges.
First place winner ($500) Dining Clue is a customized restaurant reservation system that uses a specialized algorithm combining customer preferences and restaurant offerings to generate “pleasant surprises.” Part of the experience is the mystery preceding the customer notification and subsequent spontaneity. Verena Krewerth and Svenja Janorschke, international students studying in the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, came up with the hip, trendy concept.
Recovery Roller, an advanced muscle restoration device developed by a team of several student athletes from the College of Business Administration – Micah Paulino, Kyle Hayes and Bob Reeves – garnered second place ($300). The judges were particularly impressed with the fact that this product was already being used with success by several Division I athletes at Niagara.
Abintra, a one-stop service provider for small businesses founded by College of Business Administration students Jon Anderson and Michaela Kowalick, won third prize ($200). According to this team, they have already secured one paying customer and have several other good leads. The judges were most impressed with their choice to get out into the marketplace, which they felt would speed up the learning and market penetration curve.
Three other teams presented their excellent ideas for their new ventures. Jim Lumadue and Michaella Page from NUBottleBottle have designed a revolutionary device to avoid wasting any product that comes in a plastic bottle. Katy Martin and Alison Napier developed Formally Yours, a retail store that will rent girls and women’s formal wear. Brian Roth, Laura Robinson, Jason Cutler and Elisha Teibel conceptualized Ground Up Coffee, an entertainment and gathering center to fill a void in the Niagara Falls social scene.
“This is yet another great example of our faculty and alumni coming together to provide our students with a true life simulation of the business world. Our hope and belief is that the skills our students acquire through this experience will make them superior employees and entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Shawn Daly, dean of the College of Business Administration and sponsor of the competition.
The morning after the competition brought even more good news. Five Niagara teams were selected by another independent panel of judges to participate in the Western New York regional competition on April 11, 2014, at the University at Buffalo. They include Dining Clue, Recovery Roller, Abintra, NUBottleBottle, and GNG (Jack Duffy and Matt Stapleton). With good showings, these teams will advance to the New York state competition later on in the month in Albany.
According to professor John Hannon, an entrepreneurship expert in the region and organizer of the NU competition, “We are starting to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit and drive on our campus. Nearly half of the students in the College of Business are taking an entrepreneurship course now, and it won’t be long before our first big splash happens.”