Pitches start Friday in Freirich business contest
Roy Rotheim, Stella Langat ’16, Ken Freirich at
the 2015 competition, which Langat won.
Again exhibiting a remarkable range and creativity, a diverse field of student teams has entered this year’s Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition. Starting this Friday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m. in the Payne Room of the Tang Teaching Museum, students will pitch their plans to a panel of alumni judges and mentors. In this first round, the teams are vying for a berth in the April 8 finals, which will award $60,000 worth of cash and in-kind legal and business services.
Among the enterprises they’re developing:
- a mobile app to evaluate employees via anonymous reviews from supervisors and colleagues
- a line of trendy clothing that uses recyclable fibers
- a peer-to-peer online rating service for real-estate renters and buyers
- a farmers’ cooperative that brings consumers into a shared experience of retail events, food, arts, and learning
Two previous entrants already have products in inventory. Juniors Jamie Benjamin and Leif Catania, co-founders of Adirondack Flannel, have made 100 “Saratoga Shirts,” which combine the comfort of flannel with the style of an Oxford shirt. Senior Alexander Nassief, founder of Rum Dogs and a previous Freirich Competition winner, has produced a first run of premium ocean-aged rum that he’s confident will appeal to a growing luxury clientele in Dominica, where he grew up and his family still lives. And 2015 entrant My City Brew, just raised $10,000 in a Kickstarter campaign and is ready to create its first product.
More than 400 students representing 250 businesses have participated in the competition since its launch in 2010 by Ken Freirich ’90. Freirich started his own publishing business as a Skidmore sophomore and is now the president of Health Monitor Network, a thriving entrepreneurial company that has grown five-fold over the past 10 years. “We want to foster entrepreneurship among students and provide an amazing support structure and platform,” he says.
“Being an entrepreneur means one thing: you find ways to make things happen,” Freirich told the students at a recent preparatory session. “Whether you win or lose in the competition, you’ll acquire skills in this process that will help you for the rest of your life.”
The relationships formed by students with the mentors who will help them refine their plans for the April final may also last a lifetime, added Roy Rotheim, Skidmore professor of economics, who is directing the competition for the fifth time. “Your mentors inspire you, and you inspire them. That’s how it works.”
In addition to Freirich, the following alumni entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, and investors are serving as first-round judges and then final-round mentors this year:
- Sara Arnell ’82, senior managing director, Magrino Agency
- Andrew Eifler ’07, vice president, product management, AppNexus
- Christine Juneau ’82, principal, Christine Juneau LLC
- Lawrence Peck ’92, managing partner, Peck Asset Management
- Kathryn Peper ’78, physician
- Gregg Smith ’92, partner, Edison Nation
- Nancy Wekselbaum ’73, owner, Gracious Gourmet