CCSU student start-ups pass 'shark' test

Published on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 20:45
Written by Charles Paullin


NEW BRITAIN - It was like an episode of “Shark Tank” for CCSU students.

In three-minute pitches to a four-member panel, creators of four student start-up businesses explained their plans in the sixth CCSU Business Plan Competition earlier this month.

The event was sponsored by Stanley Black & Decker.

At stake were prizes - $1,000 each for best presentation, most scalable and most universal business - as well as $5,000 in scholarships.

“It’s real world experience. …There’s a whole lot of benefits: self-confidence, public speaking … going through this process, so when they go out, if they’re going to start a business, they’re way ahead of the people who haven’t done this,” said Drew Harris, professor of management and organization at CCSU, who organized the event. “We’ve had people from this competition go into leadership programs at Travelers and other places. They have a different confidence, a different understanding of the totality of a business. It really helps them.”

On the panel were Samantha Burroughs, who worked in insurance, for 10 years and worked in marketing at Deep River Snacks; S.B. Chatterjee, a health and insurance tech professional in the Hartford area; Eric Knight, who was mentoring 200 startups in the state; and Michael Inabinet, a commercial loan officer for TD Bank.

The four businesses competing were Pick-Up Sticks Specialty Landscaping, LLC - a small-job landscaping business by Benjamin Gross; Building Blocks Child Care - a child care consulting service by Ken Patelli; A Meal Plan Mobile App - an app providing dietary meal options offered by a school for collegiate athletes by Edward Szalan and Momin Ilyas; and C15 Imaging - a media production company by Amber Martinez, Gianfranco Urbaez and Jordan Leaumaud.

“The way you’re laying this out, you’re trying to raise funds for development and then you’re going to pitch it to the university, right?,” asked Knight, following the presentation of Szalan and Ilyas. “Typically, you may want to do that in reverse to find a way to see if there is a need first, and be able to sell it.”

“So you bring suppliers and customers together … so you think of yourself as a platform and you manage the interaction?” asked Chatterjee at the end of the C15 Imaging presentation.

Other questions concerned sales and marketing plans and future avenues businesses may want to explore with those plans.

The panel awarded best presentation to C15 imaging, most scalable to the Meal Plan Mobile App, most universal to both Pick-Up Sticks Specialty Landscaping and Building Blocks Child Care and judges’ choice to Meal Plan Mobile App and C15 Imaging.

Along with the prizes, Gross won a buy-in to the finals of a statewide business plan competition, Connecticut Consortium of Entrepreneurship Educators, of which Harris is the president. There, Gross did not win a prize but came away determined to do better next year, Harris said.

“There are definitely points I would have liked to have added in the pitch, probably mostly just about target market,” said Gross during a question-and-answer session with Harris as the judges deliberated. Patelli also said he and his business partner in the audience, his wife, wished he had more time to present.

Prior to the competition, Harris said an elevator pitch competition sponsored by Shipman and Goodwin in the fall and the spring; workshops on structuring a business plan; and trial runs with mentors were held. Next fall, mentors will be involved early on in the process.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 20:45. Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2018 20:47.