Kutztown University students Shantal Ewell and Kevin Smyth won the $10,000 first place prize in the annual State System Startup Challenge, sponsored by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Ewell, an MBA student, and Smyth, a Master’s in Student Affairs student, created a business plan for the Schedula Degree Planner, an online platform that would redefine the way college students and advisors interact.
The Schedula Degree Planner creates a personalized degree plan so students can avoid unnecessary courses to graduate in four years or less while improving the efficiency of advisors and the graduation rates of universities.
“Our State System universities are connecting with the business community more than ever before and these students are a great example of the innovation happening on campuses,” said State System Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. “State System graduates help to fuel Pennsylvania’s economy and competitions like this enable the next generation of business leaders to get their start. I congratulate the team from Kutztown University for their victory and thank every student from across the System who competed this year.”
Three student teams participated in the finals of the State System Startup Challenge, which provides 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, seniors in Mechatronics Engineering Technology at California University of Pennsylvania, won second place, a $6,000 award in the competition with a business plan for Vispec Safety System. The business would revolutionize the personal electric vehicle market with added safety features for riders of electric skateboards, scooters, bicycles, and other single-rider forms of transportation. The system monitors for hazardous road conditions, including blind spots and potential collisions, to warn the rider of dangers.
A team led by Erin Burney, a senior in Business Management at Shippensburg University, won the third place, $3,000 award in the competition with a business plan for IRE Productions, a prop making company that primarily services cosplayers with high-quality and affordable pieces. Customers can select from exclusive designs of weapons, armor and other accessories to complete a cosplay ensemble or enjoy the experience of providing their own design and having 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 about the value of public higher education to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy as they translate a classroom education to real-world experience. Thank you to the students, faculty and universities for making this possible.”
Judges were Laura B. Haffner, Region Bank President, Senior Vice President, Greater Pennsylvania Region for Wells Fargo; Matt Lutcavage, Vice President of Team Experience and Chief Human Resources Officer for The Giant Company; Mary Oliveira, Chief Membership Officer for Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and Nandish Patel, an 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.
Preliminary round mentoring support and judging was provided by Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Partner Network, Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Centers and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Startup Challenge Committee.
This is the first finals to air on PCN. The event was renamed the State System Startup Challenge last year following eight years as the State System Business Plan Competition.