Saint Leo University Team’s Entrepreneurial Skills on Display at National Competition

April 30, 2015

Front Row (left-to-right): Luckson Abraham and Katherine Flores
Back Row (left-to-right): Karen Hidalgo, Tabatha Velloso, Timothy Dombrowski, and Professor John Lax

Combine making a profit with doing something meaningful and the result is brilliant ideas from students around the world for Texas Christian University’s (TCU) 5th annual Richard Barrentine Values and Ventures® Business Plan Competition.

Five students from the Donald R. Tapia School of Business at Saint Leo University recently competed against students from a record 48 universities for more than $70,000 in total cash prizes. More than 50 business and civic leaders served as judges and mentors for the competition. The competition began in 2011 with six schools competing.

The Saint Leo University team was comprised of:

  • Luckson Abraham ’16, marketing
  • Tim Dombrowski ’15, accounting (School of Business) and mathematics (School of Arts & Sciences)
  • Katherine Flores ’15, communication management and multimedia management
  • Karen Hidalgo ’16, communication management (team captain)
  • Tabatha Velloso ’17, communication management and marketing

They were accompanied by faculty advisor John Lax, instructor of marketing, and director of Pride Consulting, at the Tapia School of Business.

The competition focuses on undergraduate students pitching plans for for-profit enterprises that impact society in meaningful ways. Undergraduate students compete for the best plan that incorporates values, ethics, and/or service into a for-profit business.

Each business plan presented at the Ventures and Values Competition needed to meet two criteria: First, it had to be a viable business model, and second, it had to provide a social good.

Team Saint Leo introduced a learning management system called Job Smarts, to train Millennials in the fundamentals of skilled trade positions such as welder, electrician, and machinist. The team's plan addresses youth unemployment while helping to provide the skilled trades American industry needs to remain competitive and support economic growth. Job Smarts addresses both issues by launching a new firm that provides an online platform to deliver the fundamentals of skilled trades training using Millennial-friendly, non-conventional training pedagogies.

According to Lax, the competition was amazingly good and some schools have previously participated in the competition for several years. The Saint Leo team competed against such formidable universities as Brown, Chicago, Florida State, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Houston, Syracuse, Tampa, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Virginia. “When you’re sitting at the ‘consolation’ table with Brown, Georgetown, and the Air Force Academy, it’s hard to feel too bad,” said Lax.

“I was extremely proud of our team,” said Lax. “They demonstrated great poise during their group presentation. While they were disappointed, they didn’t regret putting in the time and effort. The experience they gained was invaluable. The real proof of the program’s success was that on the return flight, they were already planning for next year’s competition.”