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First round of business-plan competition set for Friday

February 8, 2012

First round of business-plan competition set for Friday

Paying it forward, entrepreneur Ken Freirich 90 is helping students plan
and start new businesses.


Thirteen students are competing independently or in teams of two in the first round of the 2012 Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition set for this Friday, Feb. 10 at the Surrey Williamson Inn.The competition will begin at 2:45 p.m. and run through 6 p.m.Conceived by Freirich, a member of the Skidmore Class of 1990 who is now president of Health Monitor Network, the competition will award a $10,000 cash prize to the Skidmore student or team of students that writes the best plan for a new business, plus second- and third-place awards.

The prizes are intended to "act as a catalyst to help students start a new business or to assist the development of their existing business," said Roy Rotheim, professor of economics and director of the competition. "We want this to be a profound educational experience for our students, helping them to go beyond the intuitive and arrive at something concrete - and to gain a first-hand understanding of that process."

Each of the ten businesses competing in the first round will have 15 minutes to present its plan and respond to questions from a distinguished panel of seven alumnientrepreneurs, venture capitalists, accountants, lawyers, and executives.The six individuals or teams judged to present the best plans will go on to the finals, which are set for Friday, April 13 th.

Each of the finalists will be paired with a first-round judge, who will then serve as mentor for the team as it revises and ramps up its plan for the "finals."

Students in this year's competition were required to participate in a weekly business plan writing workshop conducted by seniorManagement and Business majors from the Skidmore-Saratoga Entrepreneurial Partnership, which Rotheim directs.

"That extra coaching has produced plans of highly impressive quality," he said.

Among the products they're proposing to build their businesses around: a soft biscotti, a custom cooler, and a new smartphone app - called Grumbul - for resolving customer service issues. 

In addition to Freirich, judges in the first round of the competition will include:  

  • Daniel Antonelli '89:managing director, New York Institutional Equity Sales, J.P. Morgan, New York City ;  
  • Darren Herman '04: chief digital media officer at Kirshenbaum, Bond, and Senecal + Co and Director of their Media Kitchen, New York City;  
  • Elizabeth King Farrell '81:owner and executive chef of Kings' Carriage House Restaurant, New York City;  
  • Nick MacShane '91:senior managing director, Progress Partners, Inc., Cambridge, MA;  
  • Alan Osetek '91:president, Resolution Media at Omnicom Media Group, Boston,MA;       
  • Nancy Wekselbaum '73:president, The Gracious Gourmet, Bridgewater, CT.       

Freirich started his first business as an undergraduate at Skidmore. Visiting as Skidmore's first entrepreneur-in-residence in late 2010, he challenged students to present new-business ideas, and it was their "impressive talent, creativity and effort" that inspired him to launch the full-fledged business-plan contest as a way to support student innovation. As he told last year's finalists, "When you challenge yourself beyond your confidence level, that's when you really grow and learn." 

Again this year, he says, "My goal is to foster entrepreneurship and create real operating businesses. I don't want this to be just an academic exercise. I know this can be a life-changing experience for students." 



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