Two student teams’ presentations were so strong that judges of the Cornell Hospitality Business Plan Competition declared a tie. Both teams will be awarded first-place prize money of $25,000, the largest on campus for current Cornell University students.
The co-winners in the 2016 competition are Team Last Second Beach and Team Maidbot. Team Chill won third place, receiving a prize of $5,000. Five student teams, which have been working on their plans for the entire academic year, presented their business concepts to a judging panel of entrepreneurs during Hotel Ezra Cornell in March.
Team Last Second Beach plans to offer a mobile app that aggregates and presents the best options for travelers seeking to take short beach vacations. Aimed at hotel operations, Maidbot is a robotic vacuum cleaner that would speed room turnaround by assisting room attendants in cleaning rooms and public spaces. Team Chill’s plan is for a chain of Italian ice shops allowing for self-service customization.
The teams are composed primarily of students at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA), but students from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the ILR School, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Engineering also participated. Students on the Last Second Beach team were Owen Buehler ’16, Zach Demuth, MMH ’16, Harrison Goldstein ’18 and Khalid Ladha, MMH ’16. Maidbot consisted of a single student, Alex Levy ’18; and Chill was made up of Hanna Basra ’17, Joseph Bell ’17, W. Spenser Cardenas ’17 and David Luo ’17.
The Hospitality Business Plan Competition is an experiential learning program of the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at SHA. The competition gives student teams experience in conceptualizing, researching and articulating a business idea – skills they will need to successfully launch a business. Throughout the competition, SHA faculty advise the student teams, as do the members of the institute’s entrepreneurship network. This years’ total of more than $35,000 in prizes is the largest yet for the competition.
Judges considered factors such as whether the target market size for the concept is sufficiently large and whether the proposed business model makes sense. Final presentations had to be clearly articulated and supported with data relating to potential demand and market barriers.
Kristen Ciferri is program manager at the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship.