ATLANTA – Mercer University's inaugural Entrepreneurial Festival culminated May 3 with the presentation of $10,000 to three Mercer University graduate students following the finals of a business plan competition.
Rashida Thurmond, founder of Storx, was presented the first-place prize of $5,000 by BB&T executive Jose Ortiz. With reports of some 800,000 missing children per year in the U.S., Storx offers a GPS tracking bracelet to parents that will notify them immediately if their child moves out of a designated safe zone.
A second-place prize of $3,000 went to Cheikh Ndiaye for his specialty hibiscus tea beverage, a taste from his ancestral home of Senegal. Ndiaye has already sold over 10,000 bottles of his tea without advertising.
Third place and $2,000 went to Johnny Washington, whose 10 years of experience as CEO of profitable pizza restaurants contributed to his Construction Zone concept, a business that would deliver sophisticated "Yourmet" burgers.
The winners also received a package of services, including a seminar on intellectual property from Rob Hassett and Mike Powell of Casey Gilson, marketing consulting from Sonja C. Williams of Go Getter and accounting support.
The prize money, provided by BB&T, was presented following 20-minute presentations by each of the competition's six finalists on the University's Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta. The students explained how their businesses solved a particular problem and how their businesses would function and make money for investors. A panel of five judges was then allowed 10 minutes of questioning following each presentation. The judges also considered 20-page business models submitted by each student.
The highly experienced panel of judges – Candace Mitchell, Kelvin Buncum, Alan Urech, Akbar Kassam and Bhavesh (Bobby) Patel – were impressed with the innovative thinking of the students, all of whom took part in the University's new Entrepreneurial Leadership Practicum, said Dr. Robert D. Perkins, associate professor of management and faculty coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Festival. Insightful feedback was provided to help the students understand the necessary steps to make theirs a viable business.
An audience of around 60 friends, family, faculty and future entrepreneurs were on hand to witness these presentations.
At an awards luncheon following the competition in the Trustees Dining Room, Dr. Susan P. Gilbert, dean of the Stetson School of Business and Economics, presented Chip Perry with the University's first Atlanta Outstanding Entrepreneur Award. Perry is the architect and recently retired CEO of AutoTrader, a $1.4 billion company owned by Cox Enterprises. In his keynote address, Perry spoke eloquently of the centrality of people, patience and persistence in the creation of successful new companies.
The festival was inspired by Dean Gilbert's new mission to develop entrepreneurial leaders within the School. Other finalists in the business plan competition, all of whom received trophies for their efforts, included Candace Eldridge, Tiane McKoy and Kathy Steward.
About the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics
Established in 1984, Mercer University's Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics is named for Eugene W. Stetson, a 1901 Mercer graduate and business pioneer who leveraged the first major buyout in corporate history. Over the past 80 years, Mercer has granted over 12,000 business degrees, and many of its graduates hold senior leadership positions in companies around the world. Mercer's business school delivers career-focused business education programs and develops entrepreneurial leaders and responsible global citizens. It holds accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which places it among the top five percent of all top business schools worldwide. Mercer's business school has been recognized by the Princeton Review as No. 3 for "Greatest Opportunity for Women" and one of its "Best Business Schools." In addition, it has been recognized among the "Top 15 Schools in the Nation for Marketing and Accounting."
The School offers the following programs: Atlanta (Evening BBA, Full-Time MBA, Flexible MBA, Executive MBA and Virtual Professional MBA), Macon (Traditional BBA and Flexible MBA), Savannah (Virtual PMBA), Douglas County and Henry County (Evening BBA). www.mercer.edu/business