After receiving on-campus and regional acclaim for their innovative business plans, winners of The Pitch Zachary Lerman ’13 and Andrew King ’14, and Pitch finalist Matthew Mead ’13, are taking their respective entrepreneurial proposals to the next level.
First, on Tuesday, April 23, Mead will present his idea for a sustainable design company called Hempitecture at the prestigious Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) northeastern regional semi-finals, which will be held at Villanova University. Mead’s concept proposes to use industrial hemp fiber for architectural applications.
“I am truly excited to compete against some of the country’s brightest and most talented student entrepreneurs and I know that despite the outcome of the contest, every bit of exposure will lead to the development of the Hempitecture project, as well as the development of a network of like-minded peers and resources,” Mead says.
If Mead advances at the GSEA, he says he would qualify for the national finals to be held in November 2013 in Washington, D.C. Winners have the chance to meet with world-class entrepreneurs, win cash prizes, gain media attention, and receive business services. In 2012, nearly 1,100 students from more than 30 countries applied to the GSEA. For now though, Mead says his focus will be on delivering successful presentations at the upcoming competitions.
Later this week, on Friday, April 26, Lerman and King, co-creators SpaceVinyl, a company that produces stickers for the spacebar on computer keyboards, will present their idea during the state finals of the New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) held at University of Albany. In addition, Mead will join his fellow HWS students that day, showcasing Hempitecture in the competition’s energy and sustainability category. The NYBPC offers more than $500,000 in prizes at the regional and state levels.
In the time leading up to this week’s events, both the Hempitecture and SpaceVinyl teams have done exceedingly well in the entrepreneurial contests in which they’ve competed. Recently, Mead’s proposal for Hempitecture swept the energy and sustainability category of the regional NYBPC held earlier this month at Rochester Institute of Technology. And SpaceVinyl advanced with plenty of accolades in the for-profit category of the regional NYBPC.
King says SpaceVinyl’s run has been amazing, but that suitable preparation and staying sharply focused on the company goals has been an important factor for success.
“I’ve learned that no matter what people say, just be confident in what you are doing,” King says. “Everywhere we go we get more and more feedback from different people all telling us different things. And yes, it is important to take all their ideas into consideration, but at the end of the day, you can’t lose sight of what you believe the strongest path is to take.”
Prior to the regional NYBPC competition, SpaceVinyl and Hempitecture had recently competed at HWS for top honors in The Pitch, an entrepreneurial contest organized by the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL) that calls for students to submit their best and most innovative ideas that change communities, improve systems, and deliver products or services.
CCL Associate Director Amy Forbes, who helped organize and facilitate The Pitch, says that the entrepreneurial contest at the Colleges was key in helping the students prepare for the next level of competition. She says both undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the region competed at the NYBPC in Rochester, with many of them coming from highly business-oriented and technology-driven programs.
“The students’ preparation fit beautifully into the format of the regional competition at NYBPC, and it was great to see them rise to that level after The Pitch,” Forbes says.
Since competing in The Pitch, Forbes says the Hempitecture and SpaceVinyl have refined their business plans and improved their presentations. She says they’ve also continued to practice with the help of their mentors and have received constructive critiques.
“To me, one of the most beautiful things about entrepreneurship is it relies extensively on your network of support and mentorship,” Mead says. “While I came up with the Hempitecture concept, I would not be competing on both the state and national level without the tremendous support I have received and great thanks are in order.”
Both teams say that CCL’s The Pitch and all the support they’ve received in preparation have been instrumental in getting them ready to compete with their college peers from across the state. Lerman says competing against very talented peers was a boost of confidence heading into the state finals.
“Andrew and I are both extremely excited to move on to the final round,” Lerman says. “We have a long week of preparation ahead of us, but we are excited to bring notoriety to our product and company, but also to let everyone know that HWS is an exceptional place that produces exceptional ideas.”
Mead says he is incredibly grateful for The Pitch competition and for the guidance and support offered by Forbes, CCL Director Susan Pliner, and CCL Coordinator of Leadership Programs Morgan Hopkins, who all attended the regional NYBPC at RIT. Mead also says he’s grateful for all the support of his mentor Norman “JB” Blanchard ’80.
“Always pursue what you believe in with a passion,” Mead says. “Developing Hempitecture has consumed thousands of hours, but when you are passionate about something, the line between work and progress is blurred in the quest for success. I am thankful for all the people I have come into contact with developing Hempitecture, and from this I have begun developing an invaluable network. The importance of a network has been underscored throughout the entire experience and it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life, no matter what I am pursuing.”