Students Heading to State Business Competition After Winning Regional Event

April 24, 2013  |  by Melissa Heidt

Dr. Hannon, Alex Cleveland, Kevin Walders and Prof. Pikas

Alex Cleveland, ’14, and Kevin Walders, ’13, winners of the NU Business Pitch Competition, recently took second place at the WNY Business Pitch Competition, held April 18, 2013. They were among a field of 40 teams from UB, Canisius, Fredonia, Buffalo State and Niagara who entered the competition.

This regional victory earned them an invitation to the NY State Business Plan Competition, to be held in Albany on April 26, 2013. There they will face teams from the likes of Cornell, Syracuse, Columbia, Clarkson, RPI and RIT while competing for over $150,000 in prizes.

Their venture, You Play They Play, is a company that provides stressed out couples who need a romantic or “sanity” break with a safe and educational environment for their children while they enjoy a night out. Thus far, the NU and Western New York judges have concluded that this concept seems to address a major pain point that affects almost every couple, regardless of their age, demographics, or socioeconomic status.

“This is the first time we have held a business plan competition at Niagara, so to have one of our teams advance to the state finals is a real accomplishment,” noted entrepreneurship professor and NU competition director John Hannon. “It just goes to show you how much talent we have here waiting to burst out.”

In addition to finishing term papers and prepping for final exams, the two seniors are doing additional research and rehearsing the You Play They Play presentation pitch in their “spare” time. “It’s a grind, but it’s also a tremendous way to ice the cake of my outstanding experience here at Niagara,” said Walders.

“I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I kind of know what it takes, but creating this myself has given me a whole new appreciation for the exertion and the exhilaration of taking an idea and turning it into a reality,” offered Cleveland.

Bohdan Pikas, professor of marketing, has taught and interacted with the two aspiring business owners over the last several years. Naturally, when it was time for the students to select a mentor, they more or less told him that he had no alternative but to help them.

Then the fun began.

“Alex and Kevin have no concept of a “work day,” they shoot questions at me all day and night, either by email or personal visits,” Pikas jokingly lamented.

On a more serious note, on behalf of Dean Shawn Daly, who gave the green light to the inaugural NU Competition, and the entire College of Business, Pikas opined, “Kevin and Alex have further developed the Niagara University College of Business name and reputation in the Western New York region, and now they are our ambassadors across all of New York state. I suspect that we will hear of great accomplishments from these young men at the state competition and throughout their careers after they graduate from Niagara.”