Students’ Proposals Net Winnings in CSU’s Inaugural Business Plan Competition

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- A “College Concierge” service proposed by a team of MBA students is the overall winner in Columbus State University’s inaugural Business Plan Competition.

The recently concluded contest drew 21 entries and involved three college-division finalists, plus a pair of finalists in a separate high school category.

The students revealed their ideas through PowerPoint presentations to a judging panel of area business owners and experts.

The judges tabbed as winners Jordan High School’s Corrisa Thompson and the CSU MBA-student team of Yvonne Bryant, Rob Schwing and David Savage.

college winnersThe college trio, right, whose members will share the $4,500 total prize for top overall plan, developed proprietary algorithm software that powers its proposed College Concierge service designed to help high school students choose the college that best suits them.

The idea, with some follow-up work, could be a start-up business, said competition director Kirk Heriot, CSU’s Ray and Evelyn Crowley Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Turner College of Business and Computer Science. “The same goes for the runner-up entries,” he said. “Each plan was well thought out and in need of just a little more research and planning.”

Second place, and $1,000, in the college division went to another team of CSU business graduate students – Jenifer Robertson, Yu-Ting Chen and Jennifer Rabaduex – who proposed an indoor baseball pitching and batting facility.

Jonathan Ussery and Jason Riel, both CSU business undergraduates, took third place and its $500 prize for their proposed rock climbing and conditioning facility geared for competitive athletes.

high school winnersIn the high school category, Thompson earned the $1,500 top prize for “Mamacita,” a clothing store for plus-size young women. Second-place and $1,000 went to Niterra Hill, a senior at the Teenage Parenting Center, for her proposed “adult daycare center” to serve households with senior citizens.

Heriot, who selected the finalists – all from Columbus except Ussery (LaGrange) –  with help from Jenny Satterwhite, owner of Serendipity Salon and Day Spa, said the competition will continue annually, thanks to sponsor and volunteer support from the surrounding business community.

Such support included the panel that judged the finalist presentations: Mac Cantrell (Action Buildings), Al Barber (Barber’s Driving School), Steve Thomas (The Money Mailer), Kiki Seda (A-1 Postage Meters), Lori Auten (University of Georgia Small Business Development Center), Todd Carlisle (SBDC consultant), retired MeadWestvaco executive Jack Goldfrank (now an executive-in-residence at CSU’s Turner college) and CSU business professor Phil Bryant.

Ron Hinze, consultant to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce for small business development, helped Heriot develop and organize the competition.

In addition to the judges’ companies, other sponsors included Columbus Bank and Trust, SunTrust Bank, Columbus Community Bank, Sun Ray Cleaners and CSU business graduate and successful entrepreneur Steve Taylor, who made a generous monetary donation.

Speaking to the participants during the awards luncheon, CSU President Tim Mescon said the event “is a great exercise” for the student competitors who learn to “connect the dots between theory and practice.”

HS-winners 2 – From left: Kirk Heriot, Niterra Hill (runner-up), Corissa Thompson (winner) and Linda Hadley, dean of CSU's Turner College of Business and Computer Science

College-1st-Overall – From left: Kirk Heriot, Yvonne Bryant, Rob Schwing and David Savage