Undaunted by the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business held the 2020 James and Eileen Christmas Business Plan Competition online on April 16, celebrating the entrepreneurship and creativity of students.
Underwritten by James W. Christmas ’70CBA, ’10HON and Eileen Christmas, and hosted by The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and St. John’s University’s Office of Alumni Relations, the competition is open to all St. John’s undergraduate and graduate students.
This year’s top prize for a 15-page business plan was $5,000, and the five finalists presented their comprehensive business plans during the online event. The competition yielded nearly 60 submissions.
Mr. and Mrs. Christmas have sponsored the competition since 2010. Mr. Christmas served as one of the executive judges, along with keynote speaker Stephen Distante ’88CBA, Chairman and Founder of Vanderbilt Financial Group; Mandisa E. Turner, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Management at St. John’s and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Bionic; and Brenda Massetti, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management at St. John’s.
“We are proud of the students who participated in this year’s virtual James and Eileen Christmas Competition, as they represent the best of what Tobin has to offer,” said Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair, and Professor of Decision Sciences. “Each student exemplifies what Tobin strives to provide: an education that is entrepreneurial, global, and experiential.”
Mr. Distante called himself a “lifelong entrepreneur” who earned his Accounting degree from St. John’s—because such a degree is “the language of all business.” He noted that, in times of crisis, it is often entrepreneurs who make the biggest difference.
“It is an open playing field,” he said, that allows creative minds to help in many ways. “I see amazing things.” For example, the grassroots organization meals4heroes.org has made it their mission to provide meals to local health-care workers and support local restaurants in New York City.
“To watch entrepreneurs pivot during this time of crisis has just been tremendous,” he stressed. “We never feel more alive as entrepreneurs: creating solutions is part of our DNA, and there is nothing that I get more energy from than young people presenting great business ideas.”
The master of ceremonies for the online event was William D. Reisel, Ph.D., Professor of Management and the competition’s Director. “The Tobin College of Business is all about student success and what we celebrate this evening,” he stressed.
Rev. Patrick Flanagan, C.M., Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, gave the Invocation for the event, and was impressed with what he saw. “The Christmas competition is one to which I look forward each year,” he said. “It serves as a showcase for an incredibly large cache of solid proposals from students hungry to demonstrate their academic excellence and business acumen in the marketplace.”
This year’s top honors and a prize of $5,000 went to graduate student Elizabeth Tum for her family company Goon Lee Fireworks. Second place, with a prize of $2,000, went to Marketing major Emily Inzero for CareerOp, a career planning digital platform. Third place and a prize of $1,000 went to graduate student Tamesha Alexander for Philly UNLMTD, an organization dedicated to the development of amateur athletes.
Tamesha, a former member of the St. John’s University Women’s Basketball Team, noted that the experience was stressful yet invigorating. “I was so glad to have the opportunity to pitch my dream to the judges,” she noted. Tamesha recently accepted a position on Head Coach Joe Tartamella’s staff as a graduate assistant.
Elizabeth was grateful the event was still held despite the challenges faced by the University and the world at large. “My grandfather founded this business more than 60 years ago, and my fear was that I would never have the chance to present this plan. I was so excited to share this family legacy with everyone online.”
The entire competition can be viewed via WebEx here.