Business and Ethics / People of SU

Albers Business Plan Competition Alumni Find Success

August 26, 2019

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Automated sunscreen dispensers, fast-casual salads, plant-based creamers and a system to stabilize loads suspended under helicopters. All are up and coming products of start-up businesses that have this in common: they all began after their founders entered the Harriett Stephenson Business Plan Competition as Seattle U students or alumni.

Automated sunscreen dispensers, fast-casual salads, plant-based creamers and a system to stabilize loads suspended under helicopters. All are up and coming products of start-up businesses that have this in common: they all began after their founders entered the Harriett Stephenson Business Plan Competition as Seattle U students or alumni.

The Business Plan Competition was started in 1998 former Albers School of Business and Economics faculty member Dr. Harriet Stephenson. It is designed to help students and alumni in launching new business ventures, including for-profit businesses, not-for-profit businesses, corporate entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Participants enhance their Seattle University learning experience, gain feedback on ideas, develop networks and share their ideas with potential investors. The annual competition is sponsored by the Albers Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

Four of these companies were in the news this summer with new rounds of funding and other successes:

Evergreens

Todd Fishman, ’10 MBA, CEO of Evergreens, was named in this year’s annual Puget Sound Business Journal40 Under 40.” According to the Journal, the list puts “a spotlight on individuals who are among the business community's brightest and most innovative leaders under age 40.”

Fishman entered the Business Plan Competition as an undergrad, placing third (and won the University of Washington competition), with a pitch for a company called Nanocel. That venture went nowhere, however, according to Amelia Marckworth, interim director of the Albers Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Fishman credited the skills he learned during the competition in helping him launch Evergreens.

Fishman and co-founder and childhood friend Hunter Brooks opened their first Evergreens restaurant in downtown Seattle in 2013 after moving to New York City and discovering how easy it was to find a healthy meal there. The pair wrote a business plan and returned to the Pacific Northwest. Evergreens has 18 locations in Washington and Oregon and is scheduled to have a total 30 by the end of August. The restaurants feature salads, grain bowls and wraps.

No Fry Zone

A sunscreen kiosk business that took fourth place in the 2018 Business Plan Competition has found its place in the sun, literally and figuratively. Danielle Quint, ’18 Leadership MBA, founder of No Fry Zone, says the company has installed its first three solar-powered self-serve sunscreen lotion kiosks at a popular Singapore resort and have backing from ISF Incubator, the startup arm of Intellectual Ventures.

“I sit here thinking where I was last year and it all seems surreal,” said Quint in an email to Marckworth “I appreciated the support and guidance as I continued to refine my vision, plan and pitch!”

No Fry Zone's kiosks deliver individual portions of sunscreen to ensure proper protection, while reducing consumer waste.. The company is focused on making it easier for individuals to protect themselves from harmful sun exposure while on the go and is also committed to environmental sustainability through eliminating the need for individual sunscreen bottles.

Nutpods

Madeline Haydon, ’05 MBA, the founder and CEO of Nutpods and an MBA graduate, took third place in the 2015 Business Plan Competition. The small producer of plant-based dairy alternatives was profiled in the Seattle Times this month after it raised $33 million from professional investment firms, including VMG Partners. It got its start on Kickstarter and the products made their debut in 2015. On Aug. 14, Inc, magazine ranked Nutpods #13 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the US.

Nutpods makes almond and coconut coffee creamers, a market segment that has seen large growth. They can be found online and in retailers including Amazon and Safeway.

According to the Times story, Haydon said she started the company because creamers on the market could not accommodate her diet—not only lactose intolerant, Haydon also developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and  there were no unsweetened options on the market at the time

Vita Inclinata Technologies

Founder Caleb Carr won the 2018 Business Plan Competition as a law student with his proposal to create a company that would pioneer innovative hardware solutions for daily safety problems encountered in industries such as aerospace and construction. Vita’s first product, the Load Stability System, was created to solve the swinging of helicopter hoisting and sling load systems.

The genesis of the idea was based on a tragedy that occurred in 2009, when Carr watched as a friend died because a helicopter was unable to rescue him due to the swinging of the helicopter hoisting system in windy conditions.

This summer, Vita concluded a $6 million Series A investment round with a Japanese partner, acquired an aerospace accelerator program and with partners rang the opening bell of the NASDAQ on July 3.

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