The team of 2011 alum Nitasha Stiritz and current seniors Arthur Cachero and Blake Harrison received the top entrepreneur award for their innovative ‘Launch Pad’ business plan, which will produce a web-based application to communicate critical firm startup information via enhanced video in 1-2 minutes to a prospective investor or backer. The Launch Pad product will allow small startups to utilize quickly and efficiently tools that typically have been available to only larger firms. From the Entrepreneur Enrichment Endowment, created concurrently with the launching of the EEP in 2007, a cash award of $2,500 was provided to the Launch Pad team.
Receiving $1,000, including the $500 Dave and Dorothy Latter Free Enterprise Award, was senior business student Matt Joslyn for his project, “Plane & Simple Tours.” His business plan is to provide students with inexpensive trips and services that cater toward their liking. By equipping all travelers with the basic tools to create their own unique adventure at low cost, he plans to attract a broader range of travelers. The four other participating projects each received smaller cash awards. In addition, Phil Herbig, chief financial officer of WesPak Sales in Dinuba, Calif., received the “Inspirational Mentor Award” chosen by his peers and entrepreneurs, and the Plane and Simple Plan he co-mentored with Robert Harp and Stephen Miller will receive a $15,000 comprehensive social media marketing plan provided by the San Diego-based firm ZBiz, founded by PLNU alum Zach Johnson.
“Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of being a mentor and a friend to young men and women who have a vision for the future,” said Herbig. “I have found the mentor process to be reciprocal as these young men and women force me to think outside the box.”
The banquet represented the completion of the fifth year of PLNU’s Entrepreneur Enrichment Program. The business plans this year represented a diversity of for-profit and non-profit interests from students and recent graduates from both the undergraduate and MBA programs at PLNU. Each fall semester, students are encouraged to present their business ideas in early stage form at the EEP Exposition, where the projects are evaluated by experienced entrepreneurs, including past EEP participants. Continuing projects were then assigned a team of mentors comprised of three, experienced business professionals, including the past PLNU Entrepreneurs of the Year, who provided counsel and advice to the projects and entrepreneurs. The EEP is unique in that it allows both undergraduate students from all disciplines and also MBA students to participate in the same entrepreneurial program.
EEP co-founder and mentor Craig Van Hulzen, CEO of Van Hulzen Asset Management in Folsom, Calif., reflected on the mentoring process. “The extraordinary effort of the student participants, using their free time to build on a dream, to work with peers, willing to learn from mentors, and to create opportunity for themselves is highly commendable. It speaks well of their character, their families, and PLNU’s Fermanian Business School. These are the qualities of successful entrepreneurs.” All of the plans were privately reviewed and then scored by a group of twenty mentors and EEP judges, and the results were kept confidential until the announcement at the banquet on Wednesday night.