Fifty entrepreneurs in the New York Metropolitan area recently competed for a chance to launch their creative business idea with a $10,000 small business grant. The winner was decided at year’s end by a panel of judges that included Dr. Ray Manganelli, head of Mercy’s MBA program.
Sponsored by 1010 WINS and Canon MAXIFY Printers, the Small Business Grant Challenge showcased local entrepreneurial contestants who had 90 seconds to pitch their startup business ideas to a panel of judges, along the lines of the popular television show Shark Tank. Dean Manganelli and fellow judges devoted many hours of deliberations to narrow the field to ten finalists in successive elimination rounds. After factoring in audience votes on how well each contestant presented their idea, the panel selected the winner: Harlem Blue Beer, a craft brewing company.
“As judges, we are applying business experience and knowledge to the task of singling out one business plan that not only meets certain criteria but also presents its case exceptionally well,” said Manganelli. “Each entrepreneur must show a clear need for the $10,000 award and a plan to spend it wisely. The owner should demonstrate how the positive impact the business will have on the community, and present their idea clearly and persuasively. The winner, Julian Riley of Harlem Blue Beer, certainly met those criteria.”
Manganelli, who has served on the judging panel throughout the past four competitions, said he truly enjoys participating—not only for the excellent exposure opportunity for Mercy College, but also for the chance to meet with budding entrepreneurs. “Every contestant I’ve met is a very hard worker, and extremely passionate about their business idea,” he said. “Many of these businesses are minority-owned, and they all have a backstory of struggling to get their business off the ground. That makes them very much like Mercy College students.” He added that some contestants have expressed interest in furthering their education, and “we make sure they know all about how Mercy can help them improve their chances for success.”
Among Manganelli’s fellow judges are several other deans of MBA programs, banking executives, top consultants, and small business leaders. Although not all are familiar with Mercy College at the outset, “we invite them to get to know us better,” said Manganelli. “Some are in a position to join our Advisory Council, where they may contribute to the development of new programs for the business school. Others will sometimes offer internships or projects for the Strategic Consulting Institute. Everyone—the contestants, judges, audience, even the radio station personnel—leaves with a positive impression of Mercy from watching how we work.”