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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Student Entrepreneurs Present Business Plans in First ‘Start-Up’ Competition

It's easily the nicest Friday afternoon of the semester. The Old Dominion University campus has emptied out, as many students, staff and faculty members have set out to enjoy a warm, spring weekend.

But in one large lecture room in Constant Hall, home of the College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA), two dozen students sit, dressed professionally, a study in concentration.

They are aspiring entrepreneurs. And they're about to present business plans for their start-up ideas to ODU faculty and members of the CBPA Advisory Board.

In all, the judges heard presentations of eight business plans on Friday, April 11 - ideas ranging from a ride-share program for ODU students, to a photography service for families with a victim of cancer. The Start-Up competition, the first of its kind on campus, is part of the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem at the university, which will lead to the official opening of the ODU Entrepreneurial Center this fall.

"This is the first time this has been done, ever, at Old Dominion University. You are trailblazers for participating," Larry "Chip" Filer, associate professor of finance, told the students at the start of the competition. "This is just the beginning. Our commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit is very real. It will continue and grow.

"Those of you here watching the competition today, next year we want you up here presenting."

After the introductory remarks, student teams shared their ideas in slick, five-minute presentations. Jim Lant, instructor of management and interim director of the Entrepreneurial Center, Charlie Daniels, instructor of engineering management, and Steve Lanivich, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, served as judges for the competition.

Sponsors of the event were the ODU Student Entrepreneurship Club and Enactus, the university's new service club dedicated to social entrepreneurship. Enactus seeks to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit for social causes. Enactus faculty adviser Connie Merriman, CBPA assistant dean, said members were on the lookout for projects that could be taken on as social entrepreneurship projects.

"We are actively seeking new projects, and events like the recent Start-Up competition are a great source of opportunities to identify possibilities," Merriman said.

One of the possible projects identified as a social entrepreneurship match was the winner of the Start-Up competition, a service known as Ill Shots Photography, which seeks to provide family members of cancer sufferers with living, visual memories. Judges said the project was chosen because it "combined photography and videography with support for cancer research." Brothers Aaron and Jordan Hare, whose mother is a cancer survivor, and whose close friend was a victim of the disease, created the company in their honor. They received $2,000 for winning the competition.

Second place (and a $1,000 prize) went to Beau Blythe, Ryan Bedford and Jamal Anderson for their project, MonarchSafe, a business idea for campus security that uses wireless technology and mass notification.

Third place (and a $500 prize) was a tie between Kyle Lippiatt's North Suffolk Aquatic Center, a specialized indoor aquatics facility, and Dane Howard's Ridewall, a ride-sharing service targeting college students.

Entrepreneurial events will continue through the College of Business and Public Administration and in other ODU colleges under the auspices of the university's entrepreneurial initiative, which is funded in part by the recent $11 million donation from the Strome Family Foundation.