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Student Winners at First Annual Michael Karapetian '97 Entrepreneurship Symposium
Top-place finishers in the Shark Tank segment of the inaugural Michael L. Karapetian ’97 Entrepreneurship Symposium: (l to r) Emily James ’17, Courtney Morris ’17, Dylan Runne ’16 and Ronald Mendizabal ’17.

Student Entrepreneurs Win Business Startup Money

At Moravian University’s own Shark Tank, a total of more than $4,000 in prize money went to top business proposals.

Kevin O’Leary, here we come. On November 21st, 13 undergraduate students vied to impress judges in a battle of business plans at the inaugural Michael L. Karapetian ’97 Entrepreneurship Symposium. Working within the framework of a course in entrepreneurship taught by Gary Kaskowitz, associate professor and chair of the Department of Economics and Business, each student was asked to conceive a business aimed at a well-defined audience, develop a plan for bringing that business to market and envision a marketing strategy. Moravian University alumni served as mentors throughout the process.

The final plans were then presented to a panel of judges at the Symposium in Moravian University’s very own Shark Tank, the brainchild of alum and entrepreneur Michael L. Karapetian ’97. Investment dollars were awarded for first ($2,000), second ($1,500), and third ($500) best business proposals of the day. Here are the winners.

First Place: Emily James ’17 for Fab Floor

A dancer, James knows the agony of practicing moves and routines on concrete floors, so she came up with the idea for making dancer-friendly flooring that could be rolled up and easily transported and laid down on top of home or studio floors. To accomplish this, James’s design uses interlocking but separable planks of wood linked by straps. Fab Floor include a pad underneath to provide cushioning.

"I feel as though I could run my own Fortune 500 company with the confidence this experience has given me."

James is taking a hiatus from her business to focus on school work, but she couldn’t speak more highly of the rewards of participating in the Shark Tank. “I feel as though I could run my own fortune 500 company with the confidence this experience has given me,” says James.

Second Place: Ronald Mendizabal ’17 for Orbit Leash

For Ronny Mendizabal, walking his pitbull can be a challenge, so he decided to take matters into his own hands—or should we say out of his hands--by developing the Orbit Leash. This dog leash attaches to a belt that fits snuggly around the dog walker’s waist. A ball at the attachment point of the leash allows it to move along a channel within the belt, allowing the leash to move 360 degrees around your body for hands-free walking.

Mendizabal, who is creating a minor in entrepreneurship, is passionately pursing the Orbit Leash and currently working to develop a prototype. About the entrepreneurship class and the symposium: “The entire experience was amazing,” he says.

Third Place—a Tie

Courtney Morris ‘17 for Worker Bees

Morris is the innovator behind Worker Bees, a hand-held electronic device that makes chores more fun for children. Children choose a chore listed on the device, and when they complete it, they can send notice to a parent’s smart phone or computer. Based on the quantity and quality of work completed, the technology on the parent’s end picks a local activity—musical, artistic, scholastic, or athletlic—based on the child’s interests and sends a discount on the fee. “It works similarly to Groupon,” explains Morris.

"In creating the Worker Bees brand, I feel I've uncovered my own personal 'brand'—strong, confident and a leader."

For now, Morris wants to focus on her final three semesters but hopes to further the Worker Bee model in the future. “This has been a great experience for me as it took me out of my comfort zone,” says Morris. “It showed me how much I've grown while attending Moravian University. The encouragement of students, staff, and faculty has helped me gain confidence that I didn’t know three years ago. In creating the Worker Bees brand, I feel I've uncovered my own personal 'brand'—strong, confident and a leader.”

Dylan Runne ’16 for MFG

As an observer to his family’s involvement in the manufacturing industry, Runne saw a need for manufacturers to have a source of unbiased reviews of vendors, so he developed a business concept around an Angie’s list for the manufacturing industry, specifically companies that specialize in fabricated metals—any company that turns a piece of metal into a product. “MFG Source is a one-stop shop for finding a reliable vendor,” says Runne who plans to pursue his new business post-graduation. “My next step is traveling to the Performance Racing Industry show this month,” Runne adds, “where I will be doing more market research along with trying to build my review database.

“I came to Moravian University with the idea that I would want to start my own business some day,” says Runne. “This experience has given me the push to really get started on it."

Additional Entrepreneurs

Here’s a roundup of the rest of the contestants and their business concepts.

  • Bradley Burgoon and Chernoh Shaw: Pie Guys, a mobile pizza truck that caters to large parties
  • David Fiumara: Storm Warmers, a device for use by farmers to thaw frozen water in livestock troughs
  • Matthew Gist, Gerard Jordon and Thomas Moyer: Parking Lot Party, a mobile tailgating truck
  • Brett Keays: an internet site
  • Morgan Lapointe and Kristina Carver ’15: A DVD with videos that teach practical life skills for new college graduates
  • Cedar McCredie: MirPics, a transactional mirror

Congratulations to all participants for their creativity, hard work, and willingness to swim with the sharks.