Franklin Innovation Challenge encourages student entrepreneurship, business planning

BY ABIGAIL QUINT ’15
Associate News Editor

The Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) will be sponsoring the third annual Franklin Innovation Challenge along with the Entrepreneurship Club. The goal of the Challenge is to encourage student interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. The ideas for the Franklin Innovation Challenge are due by Dec. 4 and students competing will present their potential projects in mid-April.

According to Stephanie Kessler, the OSPGD coordinator of the Challenge, there are two categories, the first of which being sustainability/technology/social entrepreneurship and the second of which being an open category. Once approved, groups of up to four students will be assigned a mentor who is associated with the College, either an alumni, parent, or friend. The students will prepare business plans over the course of the semester and then in April they will present their plans to the judges, who are typically alumni. The top four contestants in each category will be awarded cash prizes.

“Aligning with our OSPGD thinking, the traditional type of career or job mindset is going away,” Kessler said. “People don’t have jobs that they will have for their entire lives anymore. People need to be more adaptive and more flexible and so people may have to do more freelance work or do things that are more entrepreneurial in nature.”

Kessler believes the creative and innovative nature of the challenge provides an opportunity for students to use their liberal arts education outside of the classroom.

“I think skills that people can learn through something like this will serve them very well and I think it really builds on many of the skills that are developed here through a liberal arts education,” Kessler said.

According to the Franklin Innovation Challenge website, the idea for the Challenge was formulated by Trexler Proffitt, former assistant professor of organization studies, Bryan Stinchfield, assistant professor of business, organizations and society, and Keith W. Jones ’89, F&M Executive in Residence and Harris Fellow, in 2010 with the goal of encouraging student innovation on campus. In the Spring of 2011, 89 proposals were submitted.

The Challenge recalls the spirit of Benjamin Franklin, one of the College’s founders.

According to the website, “the United States has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. From our founder Benjamin Franklin to modern-day game changers like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, this entrepreneurial spirit is a driving force in our economy, lives, and cultural identity.”

According to the Franklin Innovation Challenge 2012 results website, last year’s winners were Alvaro Melero ’14 and Jai Ganatra ’14, who won first place in the open category for “Food Dude.”

“It is hard to get fresh ingredients in certain parts of India. This company would deliver products directly from farmer’s markets to consumers,” said Jim Williams ’13, former president of the entrepreneurship club.

Judith Stapleton ’12, May Aung ’12, and Rukshana Tuli ’12 won first place in the social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability category for “Atma: Refugee Artisan Initiative.”

“This organization will provide refugees materials to make jewelry from their native countries and sell them at a markup, benefiting the refugees,” Williams said. Each winning group was awarded $1,500.

Brian Rivera ’13 won second place in the open category for “The Universal Learner Lab,” and Nicholas Mraz ’12, David Balderston ’12, and Chelsea Ramsey ’12 won second place in social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability category for “MFC Mobile Solutions.” These groups were awarded $1,000 cash prizes.

Alphonse Mandeese ’12, Mengning Zhu ’12, and Min Zhao ’12 won third place for “SafeCampus App” in the open category. According to Williams, this app would provide users with the location of crimes that have occured, inform users of unsafe areas, and locate nearby Public Safety officers. Isil Tanyeri ’12, Aradhana Mahtani ’12, and Kimberlee Trageser ’14 won third place for “Mom’s Kitchen” in the social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability category. They were awarded $550 cash prizes.

Julie Matyas ’13, Julie Snider ’12, and Roni Setton ’12 won fourth place for “MiSShave,” which would develop a small, portable mini-razor that would enable women to shave “on-the-go,” in the open category.

Andrew Metersky ’12 and Javier Novell ’12 won fourth place for “EcoHotel” in the social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability category. Each group was awarded a $250 cash prize.

For more information on the Challenge, visit fandm.edu/franklin-innovation-challenge

Questions? Email Abigail at aquint@fandm.edu.

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