Published: November 16, 2011

It started as a last-minute, brainstormed idea. In a matter of days, it became a patented reality. For Austin Holmes ’14, the CREATE business pitch competition has gone beyond his expectations.

“This has been the greatest experience ever as a real world learning experience,” said Holmes, a finance major who pitched Flip View with teammate Anastasia Calcasola ’14, a business management major, for a multi-view mirror that allows users to easily check the back of their hair. “I absolutely love the involvement from everyone. We bounce ideas off each other and are really there to see us all succeeded.”

CREATE (Creating Real Entrepreneurial Actions Through Education) is an eight-week business plan pitch competition that takes students through a business boot camp. It is funded by BNY Mellon Wealth Management through UT’s Entrepreneurship Center in the Sykes College of Business.

The extracurricular program open to students from all majors introduces students to marketing, finance, operations, management, pitching and presentation. They are paired with community mentors based on their business idea and industry and are taught how to really identify their market and quantify it. Six teams of eight students were chosen from 22 who presented at the Sept. 30 qualifying round.

Those who made the cut range from a freshman to a graduate student with majors in allied health to international business. They’ll give their final pitch, with a chance at winning up to $3,500, on Nov. 18.

“They’re getting personal consulting,” said Amy Brownlee, an assistant management professor helping facilitate CREATE. “Some of them have ideas that might have just dropped to the wayside. CREATE has gotten them excited to think that maybe they could really do this.”

For Holmes, this is most definitely the case. He said the response from his team’s initial pitch gave him confidence in his product.

“They loved the simplicity of the idea and this made my mind start to spark like fireworks,” Holmes said. “It just fueled my fire to actually do this. I knew I would make it big one day, I just never thought it could be this soon.”

Holmes and Calcasola have a patent, prototype and are creating a mold. They’ve identified a target market with Calcasola’s family’s connections in the salon industry and are hoping to launch Flip View in the beginning of 2012.

“The genesis of the program comes out of my interest and belief that all students should have access to entrepreneurship education,” said Professor Rebecca White, director of the Entrepreneurship Center, who said CREATE will be offered again in Fall 2012. “We’re trying to create an entrepreneurial community on campus.”

Frank Jankowski ’15, an international business and management major, wants to distribute dorm-friendly wall paper to college students with his business Paint Less.

“The most challenging part of the final pitch will definitely be nerves,” said Jankowski, noting that excellent public speaking skills and confidence are two keys to being a successful entrepreneur. “Being the only freshman in the competition I feel like an underdog, and I am eager to use this experience as a launch pad for my next three years here at UT.”

Paul Szoldra ’12, an entrepreneurship major, wants to use his experience finding a career path after military service for his business idea, Szoldra served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including time in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005.

“My business is a website designed specifically for veterans and military members who are in the process or thinking about going to school,” said Szoldra who remembers the challenges of choosing a school, trying to figure out the admissions process and re-learn how to learn after eight years away from an educational setting.

He envisions the site to have daily articles and updates on a variety of topics such as the admissions process, GI Bill, school reviews, and how to be successful as a veteran in school, as well Facebook integration to serve as a social network for veterans on campus.

Nacole Bowersox ’12 pitched Elite Health Hotel, a website for travelers with hotel ratings based on environment quality studies. Kyle Amicucci ’12 and Ryan Linares ’12 pitched Audacis, LLC., a universal electronic toll application.

Phil Michaels ’10, an allied health and pre-medicine graduate who is taking additional classes this semester, took his undergraduate experience working as a scribe to refine the idea and fill the unmet needs with his own business, Scribe Universal. As a scribe, pre-medicine students are trained to perform the primary secretarial and non-medical functions of the hospital physician they are assigned to, relieving the heavy workload of doctor documentation and increasing the number of patients physicians are able to see.

Through CREATE, Michaels was paired with mentor Sidney Morgan, chief operating officer of JSA Healthcare who has served as market president of Humana and president of the west region of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

“The assistance of my mentor along with Dr. White and Dr. Brownlee, along with the amazing development of the CREATE workshop, has changed my life,” said Michaels. “The workshop has exceeded my expectations by surrounding me with successful investors, driven entrepreneurs and passionate personalities in order for me to help stay inspired and create a lucrative business.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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