Panasci Business Competition Winners Showcase Entrepreneurial Spirit on Campus

The Syracuse University campus is always buzzing with great ideas, and the Panasci Business Plan Competition is an excellent example of that entrepreneurial spirit. A campus-wide business plan event hosted annually by the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, this year’s competition was held April 8 and 9 and made possible by David Panasci ’80, president of DHP Consulting, who sponsors the first, second and third place awards, and Scott Friedberg ’14, founder and CEO of Gilded Social, who sponsors the Gilded Social Rising Entrepreneur Award. The competition is open to all students at the University, as well as those from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“The quality of all of those who advanced to the final round of the Panasci competition was impressive,” said Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice John Torrens, deputy department chair of EEE, who noted an uptick in the number of students enrolled in the on-line program who participated this year. “The judges always have a hard time deciding on the winners, and this year was no different. I look forward to watching these teams take their entrepreneurial talents and prize money to launch and grow their companies.”

The 2022 Panasci competition awarded a total of $30,000 in prize money to the winning teams that demonstrated the best potential for growth and attracting outside financing. All competitors submitted written business plans in the semi-final round, and the top teams were brought together to compete in the finals. Whether or not they were selected as winners, every finalist was given specific and valuable feedback from industry professionals involved in the event.

First place in the Panasci Business Plan Competition went to Bruno Gonzalez Hauger ’21 (WHIT/NEW), ’22 M.S., and Justin Monaco ’21, G’22 (A&S) and for Illumenar, a patent-pending technology for both normal imaging and illumination of daily oral care that gives patients and dentists a better look and understanding of the internal structure of a tooth, superseding even the technology of X-rays. The winners received a $20,000 prize.

Second place was presented to Noah Mechnig-Giordano ’22 and the Happy Loose Leaf Tea Company. The company offers a holistic one-stop-shop for people looking for a sustainable and healthy source of energy. The Happy Loose Tea Company will offer an in-house line of simple daily driver loose-tea leaves, while also leveraging cutting edge engineering to constantly innovate how its tea is brewed. One of the company’s highlights is the happy tea ball, which reinvents the outdated metal basket and also tackles the issues of portability and convenience. The Happy Loose Tea Company received a prize of $7,500.

Bus Point took third place in the competition trough the innovation of Justin Gluska ’22 (ECS/iSchool) and Jonathan Garces. Bus point is a software-only school bus tracking solution that focuses on efficiency, simplicity and safety, as well as reduces the amount of time it takes to travel to and from school. Using the bus driver’s phone, the company can provide access to monitor where a school bus is, provide real time alerts to parents and give teachers and administrators real time data. The company received a prize of $2,500.

In addition, the Gilded Social Rising Entrepreneur Award of $5,000 was given to Illumenar (see above). The award was presented for persistence and passion to seeing an idea through and creating a true business post-graduation. This award was generously sponsored for the fifth-consecutive year by Friedberg.

Judges for the Panasci Business Plan Competition included Marie Adornato G’84 (VPA), president of Spybaby Bridal, who will be joining the Whitman School as an adjunct teaching the Capstone course in fall 2022; Jason Kuperberg ’18 (A&S) founder of Grater Things and a winner of the Young Alumni Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award; Jim Tylenda ’72 MBA, executive consultant with GVGroup and head of strategy, product development and marketing; and Friedberg, who is also a past recipient of the Young Alumni Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award.

“We were so fortunate to have a number of qualified judges—successful entrepreneurs in their own right— who volunteer their time to evaluate our students’ nascent businesses,” said Todd Moss, chair, Department of Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises and the Edward Pettinella Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship. “Congratulations to this year’s winners who impressed the judges with their ideas and business potential, grit and determination.”

Entrepreneurship Awards

A number of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprise Awards were also presented at this event.

•  The Undergraduate Excellence in Entrepreneurship award was presented to Andrew Brown ’22. This award is given to a graduating senior with a major or minor in entrepreneurship who has exhibited outstanding leadership in this space.

•  The Graduate Excellence in Entrepreneurship award was given to Damaris “Koi” Munyua ’22 M.S. This award is presented to a graduating MBA or MSE student who has exhibited entrepreneurial leadership.

•  The Young Alumni Excellence in Entrepreneurship was presented to Jason Kuperberg ’18 (A&S). This award recognizes an outstanding EEE young alumni who is excelling in his or her business pursuits. He is the co-founder of Otherside AI.

•  The Dedication to Entrepreneurship Award was given to Sam Hollander ’21 (WHIT/NEW), program manager at Syracuse University’s Blackstone LaunchPad. This award goes to an outstanding SU-affiliated individual who has gone above and beyond in services to the Blackstone LaunchPad and the EEE program.

•  The Student Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Aidan Turner ’25 (SOA)  for being the most engaged in the entrepreneurship efforts at Syracuse University. He is the CEO and founder of Grater Things, a retail clothing business. The award was presented by the Entrepreneurship Club (eClub) President Sophia Sparrgrove ’22.

•  The Student Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Anthony Ruscitto ’22 (A&S). This is presented to the student veteran who was most engaged in the entrepreneurship effort at Syracuse University.

•  The George R. Burman Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership was given to Professor of Entrepreneurship Alex McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education. This award is presented to an outstanding individual—student, faculty or staff—on campus who supports Whitman’s entrepreneurial initiatives.

•  The EEE Faculty Member of the Year award went to Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship David Lucas and a research fellow with the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society. The award goes to an outstanding EEE faculty member who has gone above and beyond in service to and accomplishments with both research and teaching.