By Amanda Alvarez
Blackstone Launchpad, the campus-based entrepreneurship program, has announced that its annual competition for the best business ideas by students will be held in late March and offering $15,000 in prize money.
According to Blackstone Manager and Event Coordinator Hilary Paredes, 15 to 20 teams comprised of one to three student entrepreneurs are expected to participate in the competition, scheduled for Friday, March 27 at the Massry Center for Business.
This expected number of signups would mean the participation this year would equal last years, according to Paredes.
The sign-up dates have not yet been finalized but will begin sometime in mid-February.
HOW IT’S RUN
The event will start off by separating each participating team by category; then the teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of four or five judges, which will be comprised of lawyers and business people from the Albany area.
Two teams from each category will be chosen to compete in the final round, during which there will be 4 to 5 teams left to be chosen as the three final winners of the entire competition.
The prize money will be split amongst the final three teams.
The idea for the competition came about as an incentive to be part of the Blackstone Launchpad program and to expose students to professionals to use as resources for their businesses.
With the grant received through the Blackstone Launchpad Organization, the University at Albany began to allocate the money into business startups.
“Aside from the grant, we have sponsors who are willing to invest in student entrepreneurship,” said Paredes. “A lot of them are alumni who are willing to help these students.”
This year’s competition will be Blackstone’s fifth.
In 2016, the winner of Blackstone’s first competition was then-chemistry graduate student Tony Hoang, who won $17,000 in prize money.
He then began the company Advanced Modular Instruments, which offers innovative technologies to enhance research in biology and chemistry labs.
“Working with Blackstone has been a game-changer for me,” Hoang told the University at Albany News Center at the time. “From helping to build my presentation skills to just working with me on all the little pieces it takes to run a successful business, they’ve played a huge role in my early success.”
IMPACT ON STUDENTS
For 2020, one expected participant has been honing his idea since 2017 when he and his brother invented ‘ The Forgotten Closet’, a company that resells vintage clothing with the purpose to reduce the harmful effects of “fast fashion” on the environment.
“Together, my brother and I have grown the company to the point of 11K Instagram followers and 1500 items and growing,” said UAlbany Junior Ben Resnick. “We believe high-quality products that are unmatched due to their rarity, one of a kind nature.”
Resnick said that he has been practicing his pitch with Blackstone staff and receiving constructive feedback on the fundamentals of his business, financial planning, and marketing concepts.
Blackstone Manager Paredes said that preparing for the competition is a factor for success, and suggests that young entrepreneurs visit the Blackstone center to pitch their ideas to the team as well as having everything set in stone before competition day.
“It can be very nerve-wracking but also very interesting,” she said. “It’s the same as being on Shark Tank!”
According to Resnick, a prize this big could help anyone jumpstart their business career and would be useful for marketing, product acquisition, and labor.