Every student’s business education at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University is concluded by what is known as “Capstone.” This three-credit course is designed to inspire graduating students’ entrepreneurial spirits and teach tangible skills. The final product of this course is a persuasive and profitable business plan for a completely novel good or service. Ultimately, the practical skills and heightened business acumen gained from this course help to launch students into the professional world with a better understanding of what it takes to create a startup.
“Every semester, our seniors impress with their creativity at identifying areas of commercial opportunity and developing a worthy business plan to deliver value to a marketplace,” comments Ken Walsleben, professor of entrepreneur and emerging enterprises practice.
On Dec. 6, each of the 61 teams in Capstone courses for the fall 2019 semester pitched their business plans to panels of judges, which included professors and real-world entrepreneurs. This year’s finalists pitched ideas that ranged across a wide variety of industries, including technology, sustainability, athletic safety and food.
After three months of ideation, concept development, research and financial planning. The results for the fall 2019 Capstone business plan competition are in!
Clear Coast Systems (CCS), the winning project, developed an innovative electronic-pulse shoreline protection system that protects bathers from sharks. Sharks are harmlessly repelled with sonar-like buoys places around the perimeter of a protected swim zone. As a team – Joe Comeau ‘’20, Juliana Kravitz ’20, Tyler Newman ’20, Emily Sawyer ’20 and Jiachen (Fred) Sun ’20 – came together to create a product to help others stay safe at their local beach. The idea helped them place first in the competition.
“Working with my team was an incredible experience, from late nights to early mornings, establishing goals and deliverables it was all an incredible experience. Although we won as a team it was more than just the five individuals of our group. Our class made us stronger as a unit, our professor and teaching assistant were also with us the whole way, as well as various resources in and around campus,” says Newman, team leader of CCS under the direction of Walsleben.
The second-place team, Respice, tapped into the food market by designing a food production company that obtains almost stale-dated produce to dehydrate into wholesale spices and herbs. Using low-cost raw goods, Respice’s disruptive entry dramatically undercuts the existing wholesale spice market. Alex Brennen ’20, Grace Chesterman ’20, Ian Gordon ’20, Evelyn Teperman ’20 and Jamie Vinick ’20 developed the idea under faculty advisor Walsleben.
“Capstone was a great opportunity to combine the past three years at Whitman into a single business plan competition,” shares Gordon, Respice team leader. “This was a unique group project since each member came from a different major and was able to bring their expertise to the project. Although challenging, it was very rewarding starting with a concept and building it into a fully feasible business model. When I look back at my time at Whitman, I am sure that Capstone day and finalist round will always be one of the highlights.”
The third-place team, Goalie Guardian — with teammates Muzakkir Hossain ’20, Katie Krapf ’20, Carter Morris ’20, Amy Schlict ’20 and Luke Strang ’20 — created an innovative add-on to a lacrosse goalie stick. Goalie Guardian substantially reduces the change of injury to the hands of lacrosse goalies. Easily attached to any goalie stick, this protector will prevent goalies from the common hazard of broken hands and fingers. This team was under the direction of professor Mirza Tihic.
Team leader Strang shares, “I can honestly say I have never been in a group that bonded and clicked so well. I think that our success can be attributed to the bond we made as a group. I did not expect to come out of that class gaining four close friends.”
Honorable mentions went to the fourth and fifth place teams, E-Luminate and Green Caffeine, respectively. Both teams presented green initiatives to help customers with everyday needs. E-Luminate proposes to solve electrification and waste disposal concerns in poor rural India by combining organic food waste and Microbial Fuel Cell so poor villagers can turn waste into compost, while generating electricity to provide recharged batteries for lanterns. Green Caffeine aims to reduce or eliminate the need to burn traditional wood, as well as reduces the resulting pollution and greenhouse gases of traditional combustion by taking dry used coffee grounds and blending with wax to create briquettes and chips for burning.
Capstone is a demanding and rewarding experience for every student. Teperman shares what she learned from this semester, “Capstone has taught me to remain confident yet curious in all my endeavors, and I aim to bring this experience with me as I enter the professional workforce in just a few months.”
Under the direction of professors Tamara Demeree, David Park, Tihic and Walsleben, each student that completed Capstone this semester gained invaluable experience throughout the course — regardless of their winning status.
“Every semester, our seniors impress with their creativity at identifying areas of commercial opportunity and developing a worthy business plan to deliver value to a marketplace,” comments Walsleben.
To learn more about past Capstone winners and their topics, read more here.