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SUNY Purchase students learn to swim with the business sharks

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There often are big differences between business theory found in textbooks and doing business in the real world. Business schools have accepted that notion, and have been developing programs designed to provide the young entrepreneurs they’re graduating with the practical experience they’ll need in order to succeed.

Siena College’s School of Business in Loudonville, for example, offers a concentration in entrepreneurship with courses in areas such as new venture creation, new product development and brand management.

Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management has developed a series of what it terms “immersions,” where students spend an entire semester continuously focused on real-world problem solving, which includes site visits to dozens of companies.

At Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where entrepreneurship was introduced as a discrete academic discipline a half century ago, entrepreneurs are invited to attend a boot camp.

In Westchester, at SUNY Purchase, the department of economics brought the real world of business startups to students in its entrepreneurship courses through a competition based on the popular TV program “Shark Tank.” Part of SUNY’s Startup Purchase program, the competition invites students to try selling their ideas for new businesses to a panel of judges and an audience which helps the judges decide the outcome. The winners receive grants totaling $7,000.

The competition takes place at the end of the course “Entrepreneurship and Finance: Turning Ideas into Startups.” The course is taught by Assistant Professor of Economics Liya Palagashvili and Vadim Revzin, an entrepreneur in residence with GenFKD, an organization which works to ensure that millennials receive the education and develop the skills they’ll need. This was the second year that the SUNY students were invited to jump into shark-infested business waters by coming up with new business ideas and trying to get seed money while still within the protective walls of the school.

The judges were: Micah Brown, founder and general partner of Centiment Capital; Sarah Hill, founder of Bookstr.com; Nick Ohnell, founder of Ohnell Capital; Tola L., an entrepreneur; Oz Sultan, partner in the Tareo Digital Fund; and Brittany Chambers of GenFKD.

SUNY Sharks
The student presenters, judges and faculty members at SUNY’s startup contest. The presentation check for $5,500 was made payable to the winning idea, “Receipt to Recipe.” Photo by Paige DeMaio

First prize of $5,500 went to students Angela Galli and Kelly Hayes who thought up a mobile application designed to decrease food waste. The app photographs a grocery store receipt and, based on the individual items purchased, generates recipes from the internet using the various foods. The winners said, “We are beyond excited to proceed with our startup and are optimistic about our business’ future.”

Isaac Jones, an economics major, and Charles Jones, a communications major, received the second-place grant of $1,500 for their presentation of a new product they call Shower Now. It’s a portable shower intended for use by athletes, campers, the elderly and those with disabilities.

SUNY’s Startup Purchase program was initiated and underwritten by the Dr. E. Lawrence Deckinger Family Foundation. The executive director of the foundation, Nancy Deckinger, said, “I want to be a catalyst for students starting their professional lives.”

The Deckinger Family Foundation has provided funding for several programs at SUNY, including an economics essay contest, a journalism internship fund and an undergraduate course in investigative reporting.

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