Students Advance to the 2018 New York Business Plan Competition

Allison Ret - photo courtesy of   Julia Fishman ,  Director of Media Relations

Allison Ret - photo courtesy of Julia Fishman, Director of Media Relations

Five teams from Marist College will compete in the 2018 New York Business Plan Competition Finals today, April 27th, following their success at the Mid-Hudson Regional competition.

The Mid-Hudson Regional Competition, held in Marist’s Murray Student Center on April 13, featured 54 teams of college students from Marist College, SUNY New Paltz, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Ulster, Mount Saint Mary College, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Culinary Institute of America, and the US Military Academy at West Point.

The competition is broken up into six categories - IT/software, services, clean technology, products, advanced technology, and social entrepreneurship/non-profit. The first and second place winners from each category in each of the 10 regions advance to the State Finals.

Students present to a panel of judges with expertise in the category. Judges include business and community leaders, investors, attorneys, and seasoned entrepreneurs. Contestants are judged on seven criteria - market opportunity, competitive advantage, management capability, financial understanding, venture maturity, presentation and investment potential.

Susan Scanlon, Assistant Dean in the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, has been in charge of the Mid-Hudson Regional Competition for six years.

“The response this year has been phenomenal,” Scanlon said to Marist Media Relations. “We received the highest number of proposals ever with an amazing variety of projects that shows what innovative thinking is being fostered at Hudson Valley colleges. I know the competition is going to be terrific.”

“[These are ideas] that will change the world, it’s crazy stuff.”

Here are Marist’s winners:

Dana Jones (junior): Accessadoor - First place, IT/software

Faculty Adviser - Dr. Scott Willmen, Assistant Professor of Business at Dutchess Community College

Dana Jones

Dana Jones

At 18 months old, Jones was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Athropy, which now leaves her wheelchair-bound. Jones’ goal is to make life easier and provide greater independence for people with physical challenges.

She created Acessadoor, an app which allows individuals with physical challenges to open handicapped doors from the access of their phone.

“Ever since I was little I've always had to come up with creative ways to do things because of the physical limitations that I have,” Jones said. “One thing that I could never get around was opening doors. The existing buttons are hard to actually press and are often in a poor area that is hard to reach, or next to a staircase.”

“It has been amazing to see an idea actually come to life.”

Jones hopes that Accessadoor will help make the world more accessible for individuals with physical limitations, and inspire others to make products and services which do the same.

“There really aren't a lot of newly created products out there to address daily issues,” Jones said. “I think this is a step in the right direction.”

Allison Ret (junior): A.N.R Medical Solutions - First place, products

Faculty Adviser - Dr. Scott Willmen, Assistant Professor of Business at Dutchess Community College

Allison Ret

Allison Ret

Ret spent the first two years of college at Dutchess Community College, where she was a research assistant focusing on individuals with Crohn’s Colitis and colon cancer, specifically researching the ostomy bag.

“I saw a lot of problems with the bag and the need for a redesign,” Ret said. “That was when I came up with the O-Belt and O-Bag, which is essentially a redesign of a traditional ostomy bag that allows people to become more active.”

Ret entered the Mid-Hudson Competition last year, placing first and advancing to states, where she ultimately placed second and received the women in business excellence award. Ret was the only competitor at states from a community college.

“Winning last year was amazing. I had worked so hard on building up the business,” Ret said. “This past year has also been fantastic as I’ve been growing and working on prototyping. I’ve learned so much through the process and really putting everything I’ve ever learned in the classroom into something real has been incredible.”

“I think as a potential career - whether it’s with my own start up or in another business - I’ve gained skills through this process that have really prepared me for life after college and has made me such a more well rounded business person.”

Thomas Bisch (senior): World Coin and Currency LLC - First place, services

Faculty Adviser - Tony Fareed, former professor at Marist College

Thomas Bisch

Thomas Bisch

Bisch’s passion for currency began at 12 years old, when his aunt -  an antique dealer who buys and sells old estates - gave him a cigar box filled with old coins that had been accidently left in the house by its previous owners.

Bisch competed in last year’s competition, under the business name ‘Current-C.’ His group came in second for services at the Mid-Hudson Regional Competition, advancing to the State competition, where they won the undergraduate services category.

Bisch officially founded World Coin and Currency LLC in January 2017, entering this year’s competition as an individual. He is one of only four people in the United States who buys and sells foreign coin on its collectible, metal, or foreign exchange value.

“You get to see ideas in every range of development, from people who just thought of it or are just getting started… to people who have been working on it for years and have this refined product, which is really cool,” Bisch said.

Bisch emphasized that, although monetary prizes are great, the connections are even more valuable.

“One of the great things, especially when you get to states, is you begin meeting investors - people who are really interested in putting money into your business,” Bisch said.

“It’s a great resource, even if you don’t win,” he added. “You end up coming out of it with a lot of contacts, which is arguably the best thing about it. You meet a lot of people who can really help further your idea.”

“It’s a great opportunity, and I hope that more people compete in it at Marist.”

Kimberly Coterwas & Vallie Joseph (seniors): TechTile - Second place, social/non-profit

Faculty Adviser - Christopher Algozzine, Professional Lecturer of Computer Science

Kimberly Coterwas

Kimberly Coterwas

Vallie Joseph

Vallie Joseph

Kimberly Coterwas and Vallie Joseph created the “TechTile Tablet,” designed to be used by those who are sight impaired. One of the many unique features of the TechTile Tablet is its versatile screen. The screen is a “touch screen-Braille hybrid,” allowing both Braille to be felt and display to be projected for those who are not fully blind.

“The market tends to ignore the individuals within the sight impaired community,” Coterwas and Joseph said. “Most of the current items marketed towards them require extensive set up and are not as portable as they should be.”

“The few Braille readers that are currently on the market today...require the user to be able to connect the reader via Bluetooth, something that those of us without sight impairment struggle with at times.”

Both Coterwas and Joseph were inspired by the ideas featured in the social/non-profit section of the competition.

“Simply being able to sit and observe proposals that were delivered with such conviction and desire to improve the quality of life of others was a truly enriching experience,” they said. “We greatly enjoyed being able to share the same space as those who are truly working to change the world in a positive way.”

Francis Chitawo (freshman): Cap City Cleaners - Second place, services

Faculty Adviser - Karen Tomkins-Tinch, Coordinator of International Student Programs


First and second place winners at the regional competitions win $1,000 and $500, respectively. At the state competition, first place in each category receives $10,000, and those winners compete for an additional grand prize of $20,000. Second place wins $2,500, third $1,000, and $500 for people’s choice and the women minority owned business awards.

The New York State Business Plan Competition began in 2013, featuring 16 teams from four schools. Regional competitions were created due to the exponential growth of teams. This year, the Mid-Hudson Regional Competition featured 77 applications from nine schools, and accepted 50 teams from eight schools to compete.

Here is a complete list of winners from the Mid-Hudson Regional Competition.

Brian EdsallComment