April 16, 2012 | Madeline Tracy

Calvin senior Jonathan Borak and junior Josiah Gamroth came in third at the Regional Business Plan Competition last Tuesday.

Calvin senior Jonathan Borak and junior Josiah Gamroth came in third at the Regional Business Plan Competition last Tuesday with a business plan detailing a solar company that would stand out in the world of alternative energy.

Their plan blossomed after Gamroth, a small business management major, took an interest in the solar energy market in Michigan, “After about 2 weeks of research, brainstorming and relentless typing we came up with our 30 page business plan for the competition.” Their idea for a solar company was unique in the way that they would lease out solar panels to public buildings.

Gamroth stressed how good of an opportunity the competition was for both himself and Borak, a philosophy and political science double major hoping to go into business contract law someday. “Neither Jon nor I had competed before, but I am currently in the small business management class with Professor Medema and he gave me encouragement to go out and do it.”

Many colleges, many winners

Students came to Calvin for the competition from Hope College, Davenport University, Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, Grand Valley State University and Calvin to present their business ideas after winning at their own schools.

“The Regional Business Plan Competition gives student entrepreneurs from our seven area schools the chance to learn and grow as they develop their ideas into business plans and ultimately businesses which are attractive to customers and investors,” said Director of the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business and business professor Robert Eames, who acted as host for the competition.

The competition was judged by five professionals from Ernst & Young, Varnum LLP, Grand Angels, TEDxGrandRapids and The Perissos Group. There were prizes for a first, second and third place, as well as a People’s Choice award, chosen by the audience.

First place and the People’s Choice award both went to Miles Smith of Grand Valley State University for his idea for the Break Away Coupling, which holds together a fishing lure and line. The idea behind the project is to minimize lost lures and broken lines from the lure getting caught. Smith’s prototype works to bend at a determined tension to help the lure become unstuck. Smith did well in the competition because of “the strength of his presentation and on the viability of his product concept.” said Eames.

Making entrepreneurs

Coming in second place was Scott Brandonsio from Hope College, who developed the idea for the Vital Sleep Band, a device that looks like a headband, but that is used by hospitals to automatically take the vitals of a sleeping patient. According to his business plan, the device would allow for a more restful night of sleep, allowing the patient to recover more quickly, as well as being efficient and low cost. “His idea solves a real problem and is viable for further development.” said Eames.

For the competition, the students have created their business plans “in an intense, hands-on way which prepares them to take the leap of faith required of entrepreneurs,” said Eames. This teaches the students the experience of “actually starting up successful new businesses, which serve our community and our world with innovative products and services and also with new jobs.”

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