Student Entrepreneurs Impress at Annual Christmas Business Plan Competition

Student Winners holding certificates from Annual Christmas Business Plan Competition
May 2, 2023

Student entrepreneurs presented their creative ideas to the more than 100 people gathered at the annual James and Eileen Christmas Business Plan Competition and Pitch Event on April 13. Rev. Brian J.  Shanley, O.P., President, St. John’s University, and Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, and Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair, welcomed the competitors. This year the competition was both in person and livestreamed.

Forty business plans were presented to a panel of faculty reviewers and 10 plans emerged from that selection process. “We’ve been sponsoring this competition for a decade now and I continue to be impressed by the ideas students come up with and how they present those ideas to the judges and audience,” said James Christmas ’70CBA, ’10HON, who served as a lead executive judge.

Other judges on the panel included Scott Lemperle ’20MBA, Executive Director of Auxiliary and Conference Services; Alexander Berman, Assistant Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, Management Entrepreneurship Consulting and Operations Department (MECO); Roger A. Hans, Adjunct Assistant Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, MECO; and the evening’s keynote speaker, Albert Bateh ’16TCB, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EZ-Net Hair Care.

Top honors and a prize of $5,000 went to Louis A. Balducci for NYC Arts Cypher, a nonprofit arts venue located on Staten Island, NY. The runner-up with a prize of $2,000 was Stephanie Marroquin for Fridge IT, a mobile app that provides expiration dates and recipes for food in a person’s refrigerator. The third-place prize of $1,000 went to Hakeem Clinton for Half Baked, a cannabis-infused bakery located in Colorado. The other business plans were from Stavros Mallas, who created SkiDaze, a phone app for ski conditions and live stats, and Giovani Brown, who presented a plan for an upscale Caribbean fusion restaurant.

Birat Shrestha was the top pitch plan winner with Mad Honey Records, a music promotion service for South Asian musicians. “This was an amazing experience,” he said. “I’m humbled to receive the award, and am just happy to be here. It was amazing to see everyone’s brilliant ideas. I’m excited to see what the future holds for everyone.”

The second-place pitch prize went to Barbara DiSclafani for Tethered, an application that assists small businesses to connect and source products. The third-place pitch prize winner was Eva Muraga for Give and Have, an ecommerce logistics business for donating used clothing. Abigal Agnew received the fourth-place pitch prize for Base 6, an application to assist people with selecting business clothes for their wardrobe. The fifth-place pitch prize went to Breanna Smith for What I Wear Is What I Want, a luxury cosmetic brand.

This year’s mentors included Lucy Heckman, M.B.A. ’76C, ’77MLS, Associate Professor, St. John’s University Libraries and Head of Reference; Ingrid D. Fray, D.Mgt., Associate Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business; James M. Kinsley, M.B.A., Adjunct Assistant Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business; Roy Weissman, M.B.A., Assistant Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business; and Charles Wankel, Ph.D., Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. William D. Reisel, Ph.D., Professor, Management, was the entrepreneurship competition’s director and coordinator.