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Inspiring new businesses

Ken Freirich ’90, a self-confessed “seri- al entrepreneur,” is beginning to fit the profile of a serial sponsor as well. The second Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition is under way, offering $10,000 to the student or team that sub- mits the best plan for a new business, plus second- and third-place awards. Last year’s inaugural contest was won

by Trevor Mengel ’11 and Sam Brown ’12, who devised Slingshot, a Web and smartphone application to help people find or start local pickup games, from softball to basketball to Frisbee. Along with $5,000 in cash, they received $8,500 worth of marketing, accounting, and legal services to help them develop their plan. Two nonbusiness students also won cash and services as runners- up: neuroscience major Sarah Belser- Ehrlich ’11 outlined an expansion to the Just Call Me Cupcake bakery, and gov- ernment major Maddie Sullivan ’11 planned to grow Collegiate Records, a student music firm and record label. Now president of Health Monitor Net- work, Freirich started his first business as an undergraduate. Visiting as Skidmore’s first entrepreneur-in-residence in late 2010, he challenged students to present new-business ideas, and it was their “im- pressive talent, creativity, and effort” that inspired him to launch the full-fledged business-plan contest as a way to support more student innova- tion. As he told last year’s finalists, “When you challenge your- self beyond your con- fidence level, that’s when you really grow and learn.” Again this year, he says, “My goal is to foster entrepreneurship and cre- ate real operating businesses. I don’t want this to be just an academic exercise. I know this can be a life-changing experi- ence for students.” Professor Tim Harper, chair of man- agement and business, adds, “The con- test advances our goal to spark more cre- ativity in our students’ thinking about ‘real-world’ dilemmas, as well as to in- crease the business acumen of students



in all majors.” For competition coordi- nator Roy Rotheim, its disciplinary di- versity is “quintes- sentially Skidmore.” An economics pro- fessor, Rotheim hopes the contest is “a profound educa- tional experience, helping students to go beyond the intu- itive and arrive at something con- crete—and to gain a firsthand under- standing of that process.” To that end, the contest now in- cludes peer and ex- pert mentoring. Last year 30 students filed intent-to-com- pete forms, but 16 failed to submit a plan—mostly, they say, because they just didn’t know how to formulate a specific and complete business plan. This year all those wishing to compete were required to attend weekly sessions led by Alison Frey ’12 and Todd Powell ’12, seniors in Rotheim’s MB360 course, which aligns with the Skid- more-Sara toga Entrepreneurial Partnership, through which


ful to have such a dedicated alumnus inspiring and supporting students in in- dependent, innovative work across the disciplines.”

students advise local businesspeople who want to improve their accounting, mar- keting, or strategic operations. With help from Rotheim and MB360 classmates, Frey and Powell spent September and Oc- tober preparing lessons, and November and December teaching them to the Freirich hopefuls, while other MB360 stu- dents volunteered to help mentor the contestants through the first round. President Philip Glotzbach says,

“Ken’s competition aligns very well with Skidmore’s key goals. It’s wonder-

Entrants worked over the winter break to ready their plans for submission to the judging panel by January 25. On February 10 they will present executive summaries and field questions from the judges, who will choose seven finalists. Then the mentoring will intensify: each finalist will be assigned an individ- ual mentor, a Skidmore graduate or par- ent who’s skilled and successful in busi- ness. The finalists’ business plans are due April 2. Presentations before the judges will take place April 13, followed by the announcement of the winners. The February and April presentations are open to the public, including any po- tential “angels” eager to make ground- floor investments in a new business. More on the competition is at the Skid- more Web site’s management and busi- ness page. —SR



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