Online Retailer for People with Disabilities Wins 2012 Values and Ventures Competition
Justin Farley, a student at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business, has cerebral palsy. He has struggled most of his life to find products to help him live a quality life.
“I don’t let my disability limit me, and I don’t think other people’s disabilities should limit them,” Justin said at the beginning of his team’s presentation for UNlimiters, a centralized online retailer that sells products and services to persons with physical disabilities.
Justin and his Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship teammates impressed the judges with their concept and presentation for UNlimiters to win first prize and $15,000 in the 2012 Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition, April 19-20.
In 2011, with the support of Nancy Tartaglino Richards and Lisa Barrentine, the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center created the Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition to honor these successful businesswomen’s belief in making money while creating meaning. The inaugural year, six schools were invited to participate. This year we welcomed 22 teams: 17 from the U.S., two from Canada, one from Croatia, one from The Netherlands and one from Mexico, with 26 judges presiding. Total prize money increased to $42,500.
“If you want a world-class business competition with world-class values, come to TCU,” Richards said at the awards dinner.
The key element that differentiates the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition is that each plan must be for a profitable business with social value.
“I’m excited to see more teams, quality projects and new ideas that are truly impactful both locally and globally,” Dean Homer Erekson said. “It shows that the Neeley School is making a difference in fostering ventures with values.”
UNlimiters, the winner, aims to help the 43 million U.S. citizens with disabilities by providing a centralized marketplace to buy products and services, as well as a mark of approval on products not specifically created for people with disabilities but which add value to their lives, such as automatic toothpaste dispensers or countertop grills.
Second place and $10,000 went to the team from the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business for Bright Sanitation, a cost-effective sanitation solution for India’s urban slums.
“This competition gave us a much better opportunity to speak to the social value that we are bringing,” team member Tom Spurgat said.
The team from the University of Arizona McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship won third place and $5,000 for their business plan for Onward Packs, a retailer of premium backpacks that uses a portion of the proceeds to purchase academic and sports equipment for elementary schools.
“Every action this year has been to make Onward Packs a viable, successful business so we can go out in the world and make a difference for education,” student Jacklynn Hall said.
Fourth place and $2,500 went to the team from Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education for their sustainable plan to build jobs in Mexico by matching cactus farming to consumer needs in Japan.
“We made this group because of TCU, and we are now in a real business helping the people of Mexico,” team member Antonio Arjona said.
The team from Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada) won honorable mention for Fundraid, an online ad management platform that enables consumers to earn donation money via their purchases. The team from Oklahoma State University was among those cited for Best Values-Based Concept for Eben Group, a backpack business that donates one backpack filled with school supplies for every backpack sold.
Other teams were from Babson College, Ball State University, Belmont University, Erasmus University (the Netherlands), Strossmayer University Osijek (Croatia), Grand Valley State University, Kansas State University, Loyola Marymount University, New York University, Royal Roads University (Canada), Samford University, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, University of Arkansas, Wake Forest University and Walsh University.
Judging the final competition were Ka Cotter, retired vice chair of The Staubach Company; Barry Davis, president, CEO and chairman of CrossTex Energy; Randy Eisenman, managing partner of Satori Capital, Ray Rothrock, general partner of Venrock; and Paul Spiegelman, founder and CEO of The Beryl Companies.
“These students are beyond their years in thinking about the rest of the world,” Cotter said. “The plans were well thought out, they showed that they really do care, and they focused on making money, because you have to make money to give money.”
Judges for the preliminary rounds were: Jim Austin, Austin Company; Holly Blocker, Plains Capital Bank; Ingrid Carney, Ingrid and Isabel; Pete Chambers, Inspirus; Luis Estrada, Studios 121; Tommy Glenn, Essentia Financial; Seth Hall, Source One Spares; Ryan Horstman, TPG Financial; JoAnn Jensen, New York Life; Chris Kraft, Splash Media; Kyle Mabry, American Airlines; Bill O’Donnell, Trek Companies; Mark Ortiz, TPH Asset Management; Gina Puente, Puente Enterprises; Richard Russack, Consultant; Darlene Ryan, TECH Fort Worth; Carl Shepherd, HomeAway; Chad Smith, JPMorgan Chase; Frank Valtierra, Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Daniel Villegas, Wells Fargo.