Kutztown University students Shantal Ewell and Kevin Smyth have won the $10,000 top prize in the annual State System Startup Challenge, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Ewell, an MBA student, and Smyth, a master’s student in student affairs, created a business plan for the Schedula Degree Planner, an online platform that would redefine the way students and counselors interact.
Schedula Degree Planner creates a personalized degree plan so students can avoid unnecessary coursework to graduate in four years or less while improving advisor efficiency and college graduation rates.
“Our state system universities are more connected to the business community than ever before, and these students are a great example of the innovation happening on campuses,” said the chair of the system’s Board of Governors. State, Cynthia D. Shapira. “State system graduates help fuel Pennsylvania’s economy, and competitions like this get the next generation of business leaders off the ground. I congratulate the Kutztown University team on their victory and thank all of the students across the system who competed this year.
Three teams of students competed in the finals of the State System Startup Challenge, which offers students the opportunity to pitch their plans to a panel of business leaders for a chance to win funds to support the start-up or growth of their business. The three finalists were selected from 60 competitors across the system.
Luke Melcher, George D’Angelo, Joseph Donatucci and Connor Egan, mechatronic engineering technology seniors at the University of California, Pennsylvania, won second place, a $6,000 prize in the competition with a blueprint for business for Vispec Safety System. The company would revolutionize the personal electric vehicle market with additional safety features for users of electric skateboards, scooters, bicycles and other single-driver transportation. The system monitors dangerous road conditions, including blind spots and potential collisions, to warn the driver of hazards.
A team led by Erin Burney, senior in business management at the University of Shippensburg, won third place, a $3,000 prize in the competition with a business plan for IRE Productions, a manufacturing company. accessories which mainly provides cosplayers with high quality and affordable parts. Customers can choose from exclusive designs of weapons, armor, and other accessories to complete a cosplay ensemble or enjoy the experience of providing their own design and letting the company bring the item to life.
“This business plan competition gives state system students the opportunity to pursue their dreams here in Pennsylvania,” said state system chancellor Daniel Greenstein. “These students remind us of the value of public higher education in strengthening Pennsylvania’s economy by translating classroom education into real-world experience. Thanks to the students, teachers and universities for making this possible.
The judges were Laura B. Haffner, Regional Bank President, Senior Vice President, Greater Pennsylvania Region for Wells Fargo; Matt Lutcavage, vice president of Team Experience and director of human resources for The Giant Company; Mary Oliveira, Director of Memberships for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Nandish Patel, Entrepreneur.
Sponsors were East Stroudsburg University, Marathon Studios, Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation, Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), and PSECU.
Mentoring support and preliminary round judging was provided by the Ben Franklin Technology Partner Network of Pennsylvania, the Small Business Development Centers of Pennsylvania, and the State System of Higher Education Startup Challenge Committee of Pennsylvania.
This is the first final broadcast on PCN. The event was renamed the State System Startup Challenge last year after eight years as the State System Business Plan Competition.