Entrepreneurial students pitch ideas at contest

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What: University of North Texas students pitch their innovative business ideas in front of a panel of top-notch professionals during the New Venture Creation Contest. The five finalists vie for prizes ranging between $5,000 and $15,000.

When: 9 a.m. Aug. 4 (Friday)

Where: Business Administration Building, Room 355, one block west of Welch and Chestnut streets

Contact: Eileen Curry Resnik, director of the Murphy Enterprise Center, at (940) 565-2848

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Students with dreams of entrepreneurial success will compete this summer at the University of North Texas for up to $15,000 to jump start their businesses.

The annual New Venture Creation Contest, sponsored by the Murphy Enterprise Center at UNT, rewards the three best and most innovative business ideas with seed money of $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000. All three winners will have the opportunity to work with mentor Bill Winspear, founder of Associated Materials, who will guide them as they build their businesses.

The finalists will give 20-minute presentations in front of a panel of judges, including business professionals and successful entrepreneurs, at 9 a.m. Aug. 4 (Friday). The presentations will take place in Room 355 of the Business Administration Building, one block west of Welch and Chestnut streets.

"The New Venture Creation Contest allows students the opportunity to turn their business idea into a reality," said Eileen Curry Resnik, director of the Murphy Enterprise Center. "The funding allows students to start their business before leaving UNT and gives them access to one of the most successful business professionals in the DFW area as a mentor. From the perspective of the Murphy Center, it helps us accomplish our ultimate goal of helping students launch and grow businesses."

The five finalists are:

Aloha'6: The screen-printing and embroidery company started providing custom T-shirts, embroidered polo shirts, baseball caps, handbags and promotional items with a fast turn-around time in 2000. Team members are founder Antonio Oliver of Dallas, Ryan Eskenazi of Plano and Joel Miller of Fort Worth. All three are UNT seniors. Oliver said there's a great demand for custom clothing. "At just about every school, you see people wearing school colors and school logos." If the team members win, they plan to buy equipment to become producers of the merchandise, rather than just distributors, to provide their customers with an even faster turn-around time.

Jewelry Gone Wild: An Internet-based business, Jewelry Gone Wild sells jewelry at below-market prices. With a starting inventory of about 85,000 pieces obtained from garage sales, the business will feature unique and hard-to-find items, mostly consisting of fine jewelry stamped within to verify authenticity. The web site will include a picture of each item with its mark of authenticity, as well as the asking price and the retail price.

My Campus Cleaners: Founded by UNT senior Manuel Gomez of San Marcos, the company plans to provide cleaning services, weekly trash pick-up, dry cleaning delivery and laundry delivery and pick-up for students living in campus residence halls and selected student housing apartments. Gomez, who lived in student housing, noticed his neighbors' trash piling up on balconies. His company will pick up trash from each door, and w orkers will dust, vacuum and clean bathrooms with environmentally friendly products. "This is creating a better college experience," Gomez said. "It will alleviate a lot of stress, especially between roommates who have conflicts about cleaning."

Quicktec Consulting: Established in February 2006 by Ryker Exum of Lewisville, the company aims to provide computer repair through four options: in-home service, pick-up and delivery service, remote assistance and mail-in service. Typical computer repair professionals tend to "talk in a language you can't understand," said Exum, who is a computer repair technician. He wants his technicians to help people "understand and learn from the experience instead of being dumbfounded by it, " he said. Exum graduated from UNT in May with a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship and a minor in marketing.

Liz and Linda: The store, Liz and Linda, will offer vintage and contemporary merchandise in one place. Elizabeth Adebanjo, a fashion merchandising senior from Dallas, saw a need for such a store after watching her peers shop for vintage clothes, hoping to mix those clothes with modern fashions to create an eclectic look. Adebanjo, who started designing clothes as a young girl playing with Barbies, says the name and concept of the store was inspired by her deceased mother, Linda, "who was a hairstylist and who was also very fashionable herself."

Previous winners of the New Venture Creation Contest:

Previous winners have said the seed money from the contest and the advice from entrepreneurial mentors helped their businesses succeed.

Last year's winners include Tucker Covington and Justin Thomason, who earned first place and $15,000 for e-opportunity, a company that designs web sites and creates Internet strategies for businesses. They used the seed money to purchase equipment, and they recently moved into a McKinney office. "The opportunities that have come out of the contest are really unimaginable," said Thomason, who graduated from UNT in August 2005 with a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship. "It would take 10 years of networking in the outside world to come close to what Eileen (Resnik) can introduce you to in a week."

Steve Basmajian took third place and $5,000 last year for his business, Freelink Wireless. The business originally started as an advertising service to mobile phones and is now a mobile software company that has created a product for data transfer. The contest money helped provide funds for a patent, acquire a technical partner and file for a trademark. His mentor helped him shape a business plan. "This competition is exactly how it is in the real world when seeking funding, and learning to think on the spot is key. Also, creating these professional presentations and business plans will make it easier for them to do it again, and again, and again, " he said.

About the Murphy Enterprise Center

The Murphy Enterprise Center opened its doors in 2000 with a $1 million donation from Ken and the late Shirley Murphy, founders and owners of The Mail Box. The center encourages entrepreneurship by providing students with business counseling, mentoring and training opportunities that help them turn ideas into viable business entities.

For more information, contact Eileen Curry Resnik, director of the Murphy Enterprise Center, at (940) 565-2848.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108