Competition serves as example of the best practices in entrepreneurship education, connects students to alumni entrepreneurs and local business community
by Sharon Jones Schweitzer '75
For the finalists of the Louis H. Stumberg Venture Plan Competition, summer has been anything but an idle break from college classes. These Trinity students, members of five teams chosen as winners following the first round of the "Shark Tank"–like competition, have been in "summer accelerator" mode. Similar to the intensive experience of Trinity's undergraduate research model, they have been working to move their business pitch into a full-fledge start-up.
With the help of $5,000 in seed money they won and some solid mentoring from successful alumni and local entrepreneurs, the Stumberg finalists have been sharpening their business plans, exploring production, development and legal issues, and initiating marketing campaigns. These teams are vying for the ultimate Stumberg Grand Prize of $25,000.
The intent behind the Stumberg Competition is to inspire innovation and prepare students who wish to create their own companies for real-world experiences. "All of our students are doing this 'for real' and are realizing the challenges of starting and participating in 'real world' ventures while they are students," said Luis Martinez, director of Trinity's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and coordinator of the competition.
The competition honors the legacy of the late San Antonio businessman and civic leader Louis H. Stumberg. He co-founded Patio Mexican Foods in 1946, a company that took frozen Tex-Mex foods nationwide. "This would have been the biggest thrill for my father – to see Trinity students strive to create businesses in the city he loved and worked tirelessly to promote," said Herb Stumberg '81. The elder Stumberg, who died in 2011, was a dedicated member of Trinity's Board of Trustees and held leadership positions with numerous organizations such as the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, Alamo Area Council of Boy Scouts, and as mayor of Terrell Hills. "He loved the creative process, young people, especially entrepreneurs, and gave generously of his time and treasure," he said. A member of the Board of Trustees, Herb Stumberg and his brother Eric established the initial endowment that supports the Stumberg Prize.
Trinity is supporting this competition to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship on campus and connect students to alumni entrepreneurs and the local San Antonio business and entrepreneurship community. "We aim to shift the failure cycle from post-graduation to while they are still students by creating an environment where it is "safe to fail," said Martinez. But many are already succeeding.
The inaugural Stumberg Competition was launched earlier this year and is open to all students, including first-year teams who participate in Trinity's Entrepreneurship Hall program. Fourteen concepts were pitched on April 21 to a panel of judges selected from the local entrepreneurship community. This year's finalists are:
The teams have been participating in weekly check-in sessions with Martinez and alumni entrepreneurs who offer advice and sometimes critiques of their business model and development. Livia Rodriquez '04, '16, one of the founders of Denify and a graduate student in Trinity's health care administration program, says the process has been invaluable. "I've had other entrepreneurial experiences and I'm drawn to the start-up," she said.
Two of the teams have even received media attention this summer. The Plova Chewing Gum team was featured in the San Antonio Business Journal after two of the founders pitched their business concept to an audience at an event called One Million Cups at San Antonio's Café Commerce. Steven Oleksak from the NoSo team was interviewed live on the Phoenix Fox affiliate, promoting the online business he and his roommate started last year.
The crescendo of the teams' year-long journey is Competition Day, tentatively slated for mid-November. That's when the finalists will make one last pitch, outline their progress to date, and map out their venture's next steps. The business solution or model with the highest potential for success will take home $25,000 to help fund their start-up.
Sharon Jones Schweitzer is assistant vice president for External Relations. You can follow her on Twitter at @sjschweitzer.