Mercy College hosted the 3rd Annual Student-Preneur Conference and Business Plan Competition, which promoted entrepreneurship and celebrated the growing number of student entrepreneurs at Mercy. The event was held on the Dobbs Ferry Campus and included the final round of the Business Plan Competition, an entrepreneurship panel and a keynote speaker.
The event on the Dobbs Ferry Campus drew more than 500 attendees who participated in person and virtually from viewing parties at the Bronx and Manhattan Campuses, including 400 virtual attendees from the Academy of Finance at Lincoln High School in Yonkers.
The conference was sponsored by the Beba Innovation & Entrepreneurship Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by global business executives Umran Beba, M.B.A., H.D. ’22 and Professor Ali Beba that helps young women entrepreneurs turn their ideas into applications, commercial products and/or services for global markets. The organization’s mission is to create passion, ignite enthusiasm and prepare entrepreneurs by implementing continuous educational and training activities, mentorship and outreach programs.
Mercy College was pleased to recently recognize Umran’s contribution to the Mercy community by bestowing her with an honorary degree from the School of Business (SBUS). As the school’s honorary degree recipient, Umran delivered remarks during the SBUS commencement ceremony and provided graduates with valuable insights and guidance.
Umran is proud of her multi-faceted partnership with Mercy College. “Good ideas do not show up every day. When they are nurtured, they grow, become businesses, and help others in the end. We are proud to be partners with Mercy College and support the Student-Preneur conference, as well as other Mercy initiatives,” Umran said.
Korhan Beba, executive director of the Beba Innovation & Entrepreneurship Foundation, provided opening remarks, while Umran also acted as a judge during the business plan competition.
"Our mission at the Beba Foundation is to encourage and support young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams and make things happen. We provide training, mentoring and financial support through initiatives like the Student-Preneur Business Plan Competition at Mercy College. This was an amazing event with some brilliant pitches, and we cannot wait to see what is next in 2023,” Korhan said.
Robert Bohn, director of Entrepreneurship at Mercy’s School of Business organized the conference, along with Kristin Ludl, associate director of Business Operations. “Mercy is a school of entrepreneurship,” Bohn said. “Our Mercy students are just tremendous when you give them an opportunity. That’s what this conference and the competition were all about,” Bohn said.
The event included opening remarks by Lloyd G. Gibson, dean of the School of Business, and Korhan. An Entrepreneurship Incubator Panel featured the founders of several companies that are housed at the Mercy Business Incubation Center on the Bronx Campus and, María Trusa, CEO of Formé Medical Center and Urgent Care, gave the keynote speech. Trusa’s recent book, “I Say No More” about overcoming her past and finding success was the inspiration for her remarks.
The centerpiece of the entire conference was the final round of the Business Plan Competition. For months, School of Business faculty Abdel-Kader Ben-Mohamed, Susan Cooper, Mahmud Wazihullah and Bohn have offered sessions and mentorship to help students prepare for the competition. Mercy’s student-run chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which is known as the CEO Club and led by Kaycee Moreno ’22 and Denisa Ademaj ’22, has also supported student entrepreneurs through regular meetings.
Initially, a total of 26 students or student teams from across Mercy entered the Business Plan Competition, which was no small feat. The application requires an executive summary, a business plan, a business plan PowerPoint presentation and a video presentation. The five top-ranked finalists—Tereva Bundy, M.S. ’22, Unique Online Reading Tutor; Travis Cox, James Kyle LLC; Astriz Contreras ’22, AA Luxurious Cleaning; Victor Rosado ’22, Clutch Nation; and Leilani Tyson ’23, Lay Styles—were then invited to present their business plans to the judges at the Student-Preneur Conference.
Bundy won first place and a $1,500 prize for pitching her business, Unique Online Reading Tutor. She is pursuing her master’s degree in educational administration at Mercy and was the only finalist not from the School of Business. As a public-school teacher, she thought of her business idea while teaching remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Preparing for the competition helped me to actually start the business,” she said. “The professors said that I was onto something and that I was doing a good job. And I felt like I could do this. I was surprised because I am not a business major! But through this whole process, I discovered that I didn’t need a major or a school to teach me. It was inside of me the whole time.” She already has three families as clients.
Second place and a $1,000 prize went to Cox who pitched James Kyle LLC, which will make men’s wallets with a variety of colors and patterns that allow customers to express themselves. His business is in the final stages before launch. “I’ve never owned a business,” he said. “At times I wondered, ‘Am I even on the right track?’ So, to find out I was a finalist of a competition like this is very rewarding." This is Cox’s first year at Mercy after transitioning out of the military, and he is currently serving in the Army National Guard.
Contreras won third place and a $500 prize with her business plan for AA Luxurious Cleaning, which launched in February offering cleaning services in the New York City area. “I saw this as an opportunity to figure out how I can truly achieve my goals and the level of prosperity and success that I want,” she said. She also values all the people she got to know while preparing for the competition: “This is about growing long-term and hopefully lifelong networks, relationships and mentors that we can continue to go back to for advice whenever we need to in the next five, 10, 20 years.”
The Student-Preneur Conference is just one of many entrepreneurship opportunities available at Mercy. The Mercy Business Incubation Center continues to offer students the opportunity to work with growing businesses, and the student-run CEO Club continues to support students in pursuing their dreams of entrepreneurship. Bohn plans to continue to expand the conference and its audience in addition to creating new opportunities for social entrepreneurship, securing new sponsorships and much more.