– A team of three Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania students who developed and successfully began marketing an all-natural fly repellant for use on horses won first place in the third annual Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Student Business Plan Competition.
Oak Hill Farm Naturals, created by Dustin Lowry of Shippensburg and Daniel Machlanski and Chris Goldy, both of Cranford, N.J., and originally from Poland, combined focused marketing with a high level of customer service to gain recognition in the local markets and achieve profitability in its first year of operation. Their product is an alternative to chemical sprays, which can have a negative impact not only on the horses on which it is used, but also on their human owners and handlers and the environment. The spray is intended especially for horses that are ridden for recreational purposes as well as those who participate in equestrian competitions.
Lowry, Machlanski and Goldy received a $10,000 prize to help further develop their business plan. The first-place prize was donated by the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU), one of the event’s primary sponsors.
Noah Kline of Mechanicsburg and Zach Britcher of Stewartstown, also students at Shippensburg University, took second place in the competition with their development of new recreational facility management software. “Reccelerator” is a scalable, cloud-based management system that will support university recreation departments and facilities with membership, equipment tracking and analytical reporting for active members and employees. Internal data can be collected and submitted through mobile applications for fast, convenient reporting requiring nothing but a web browser. Further development will allow the software to be used by club sports teams and for both intramurals and fitness classes.
Taylor Billman of Hamburg, a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, took third place in the competition, with “Dirt-Doc,” a user-friendly search engine to enable contractors, developers and property owners to advertise their need to buy or sell topsoil or other earth products. Users can then negotiate their terms for these products. Dirt-Doc also shows locations of quarries, concrete plants, asphalt plants and landfills.
The second- and third-place winners received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, also to be used to assist in the further development of their proposed business ventures. The runners-up awards were donated by PNC Bank and F&M Trust.
A fourth award, the Student Choice Award, was presented for the first time this year. Based on an optional YouTube video submission in addition to the business plan, the winner was determined based on the total number of video views on YouTube.
Justin Grosz of Greentown, a student at Shippensburg University, won the award for his proposal, “Help Just in Time,” a personalized online tutoring service that can provide information via email, video or live-feed tutoring. Students can purchase the service per question, page or session, or buy a subscription.
“The winning entries demonstrate the incredible ingenuity and imagination of our students,” said PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “We can all be proud, not just of the students selected as winners, but of every student team in the competition for having the courage to put their dream out there for everyone to see. I have no doubt will be hearing a lot more from all of them.”
More than 140 student teams competed in this year’s competition, designed to provide student entrepreneurs a real-world opportunity to pitch their original business plans. Of those entries, 62 business venture profiles were completed and reviewed. Twenty semi-finalists were then selected by PASSHE university reviewers and forwarded to the external judging panel, which comprised Michael Gildea, president of Brain Gain, LLC; Sara K. Walter, public relations manager at PSECU; Chris Fitting, small business relationship manager at F&M Trust; and Michael Pochan, entrepreneur in residence at Seton Hill University.
“As a small business owner myself, I know the challenges you must face and overcome to achieve success in the ‘real world.’ It’s not easy, but nothing worth accomplishing ever is,” said Guido M. Pichini, chairman of PASSHE’s Board of Governors, speaking to student participants during last night’s awards program. “I would like to personally congratulate every student who took part in this year’s competition—all 144 teams that initially submitted their business ideas back in the fall. Every one of you is a winner simply by your willingness to take on the challenge.”
The awards were presented last night at the Hershey Lodge. The awards dinner was co-sponsored by Hershey Entertainment and Resorts and JP Morgan.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 112,000 students. The 14 PASSHE universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study.
The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE universities also operate branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP) and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and PASSHE Center City in Philadelphia