Whitman Voices


Panasci Winners: Where Are They Now?

Panasci Winners: Where Are They Now?

Each year, the Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) department at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management hosts its annual Panasci Business Plan Competition, made possible by long-time Whitman supporter, the late Henry A. Panasci, founder of Fay’s Drugs. Students who participate in the competition compete for more than $35,000 in cash prizes. The Panasci Business Plan Competition rewards both the potential of the idea and the quality of the plan, including innovative thinking regarding new markets, products and services, coupled with the ability to strategize on how to make it happen.

According to Alex McKelvie, EEE department chair and associate professor, students who participate gain more than just funding.

“This competition has a large impact on how participants and their businesses develop,” explains McKelvie. “Beyond cash prizes, these students receive valuable experience and feedback from pitching their businesses, as well as gain beneficial connections through networking opportunities at the event.”

Here’s a look at how some of the recent participants in the Panasci Business Plan Competition are doing since competing.

X-Factor Lacrosse – Joe DeMarco, 2017 first place winner

As a Lacrosse player at Syracuse University, Joe DeMarco ’17 saw an opportunity to help fellow teammates improve their skills.

DeMarco and two of his teammates were students at the Whitman School. During their senior year, they all participated in the senior capstone course together and created a product to help lacrosse players practice face-off skills on their own.

Their team placed third place overall in the EEE competition. After reworking their idea and improving their financial design and future ambitions, the group went on to win first place with their company, X-Factor Lacrosse, in the Panasci competition in 2017.

According to DeMarco, the money from Panasci jumpstarted the entire business. After presenting some prototypes at the competition, the winnings helped DeMarco and his team develop their final product.

“The Panasci competition was able to give us enough money to do our research and development,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco also said the company is still using the money they won from Panasci to run the business today.

Ravle – Kevin Rieck, 2017 second place winner

Kevin Rieck ’19 has always loved to travel and document his experiences, so much so he was considering taking a gap year after college and traveling the world. He is no stranger to startups, having started a yacht cleaning business and an industrial and auto parts sales company.

Rieck started doing research into travel filmmakers and YouTube and found a large percentage of their viewers are travelers watching these videos that are trying to plan a similar trip. He saw this as an opportunity to create a platform where filmmakers could turn their projects into bookable travel experiences for others. This led him to create Ravle, a web-based platform to do exactly that.

Ravle won second place in Panasci in 2017. According to Rieck, this allowed them to try new things and most importantly, make mistakes because they had the capital to fall back on.

“Luckily, because of the Panasci competition we were able to make those mistakes and learn and pivot,” Rieck said.

To Rieck learning how to pitch your business and create a detailed business plan is also a major benefit from participating in Panasci.

“I would say Panasci not only does it help from a financial standpoint, but a lot of the businesses that I talked to that didn’t win the competition have also gained so much from that competition,” Rieck said.

Rieck will be participating in the 2018 Panasci competition, where he hopes to win more funding and expand his network.

Brevitē – Dylan Kim 2016, second place winner

Dylan Kim ’16 was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, studying abroad in Hong Kong. In preparation, he scoured the web for a travel backpack that could hold his camera gear, a binder and his laptop. His search came up empty, there wasn’t a product on the market that fit his needs.

“That simply didn’t exist, the idea of an everyday camera bag,” Kim said.

Around the same time, Kim’s brother was going through design school. He challenged his brother to create design a camera bag that could be used as an everyday bag.

When Kim returned from aboard, he discovered his brother had created a “brilliant” bag. From that moment on, Brevitē was born, a company geared toward creating new photographer centric travel gear.

After winning second place in the Panasci Business Plan competition in 2016, the company was able to fund their purchase orders for a new line of inventory that the company still sells today.

“It ended up having a pretty significant impact on the business,” Kim said. “Really, it helped us fund the next stage of our business.”

The company now operates out of a small office in New York City and will be launching two new backpacks this June.

The 2018 Panasci Business Plan Competition will take place this weekend, April 13-14, at the Whitman School.

The award-winning Whitman School’s EEE program, which last year taught a record-breaking 3,000 students at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels, is unique through the creation of its four teaching tracks to prepare students for future careers in new venture creation, corporate entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and family business. This allows students to be well-suited for the unique challenges in any entrepreneurial setting, whether it is in new or old companies, small or large organizations, not-for-profits or family businesses.

Its undergraduate curriculum combines classroom time with experiential learning opportunities and real-world business practice. Culminating in a senior year capstone experience where all students start a high-growth new venture and present it to a panel of external judges, EEE students gain invaluable hands-on experiences through intensive and interactive group-oriented projects.

The one-year M.S. in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (MSE) program is designed for students who want a “mini-MBA” with a key focus on entrepreneurship. There is also a newly-created online master’s degree, Entrepreneurship@Syracuse. Both programs offer a rigorous entrepreneurial immersion with a large number of hands-on experiential learning courses.

Aimed at developing the entrepreneur within, the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the cornerstone of Whitman’s top-ranked Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises program, helping to facilitate entrepreneurial activity on campus, as well as across local and regional communities. A recipient of the NASDAQ Center of Entrepreneurial Excellence award, the Falcone Center provides valuable entrepreneurial resources through the Couri Hatchery business incubator, the WISE (Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) Business Center, the South Side Innovation Center and veteran’s entrepreneurship training, such as the Barnes Family Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program.

Daniel Strauss