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Semester Project Reaps Rewards for Winners at Business Idea Presentation

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – DECEMBER 17, 2012 – Bryan Abanilla, Pricilla Guerra and Roberto Arroyo, all students in the School of Business at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, each felt proud – and a little richer – on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 30.

Semester Project Reaps Rewards for Winners at Business Idea Presentation 
Left to right: Bryan Abanilla, Pricilla Guerra and Roberto Arroyo won first place in the School of Business new business idea competition sponsored by Tropical Texas Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization.

Among the seven teams that had presented new business ideas that morning to judges in Salón Cassia of the Education and Business Complex, Abanilla, Guerra and Arroyo each received $1,500 when declared the first prize winners for their proposal, Solar Solutions.

“I think we were all a little nervous to face the judges, trying to put forth our best presentation skills to convince them our solar energy service company was the best idea,” said Abanilla, a 2007 Hanna High School alumnae who will graduate from UTB and TSC with a Bachelor of Business Administration at Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The competition was a semester-long project in the entrepreneurship class of Dr. Hans van Doesburg, Lecturer in the Department of Marketing, Management, International Business and Entrepreneurship

“Real, hands-on experience like this gives our students a taste of the many steps that must be taken before a business proposal can be presented,” said van Doesburg. “Taking an idea from concept through the research phase, creating and presenting a business plan, convincing a bank or investors that an idea has a good chance of success – these are all learned skills that can be honed with experience. This project was an invaluable exercise that will serve these students well, whether or not they choose to open their own businesses.”

Tropical Texas Regional Commission for Innovation and Commercialization (TTRCIC) partnered with the School of Business on the project, providing $8,250 in cash prizes for the top three teams and honorable mention. Laurie Simmons, Executive Director of the TTRCIC, and Carlos Marin, TTRCIC Board Chair and CEO of Ambiotec Engineering, served as two of the three judges. They were joined on the panel by Dr. John Sargent, Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration at The University of Texas Pan American.

“Participating as a judge in this competition allowed us to see what students are coming up with these days,” Simmons said. “These were all good start-up business ideas and we were quite impressed. Also, presenting to an audience can be a big hurdle, and most of the students had good presentation skills.”

The second-place winners were the creators of Sizzle Restaurant, a theme restaurant that would employ eye-catching, muscular male servers as well as attractive female servers.

“Working on this business idea was a great learning experience,” said Ernesto Molina Jr., a 2006 graduate of Los Fresnos High School who will graduate with his B.B.A. from UTB and TSC at Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 15. “I learned that it takes a lot of passion and dedication to open any new venture. It was absolutely worth my time, and I am looking forward to finding investors to make Sizzle Restaurant become a reality.”

Carmen Gutierrez echoed Molina’s comments about passion and dedication. Gutierrez and her teammate, Dominique Doucet, presented their idea, third-place winner Eco-Friendly Mattress Recycling Center.

“Among many lessons, I learned that you have to be very clear and precise about your goals with regard to the business you are pursuing,” said Gutierrez, a 1991 graduate of Harlingen High School who will graduate from UTB and TSC in December 2015.

The Eco-Friendly Mattress Recycling Center plan called to divert unwanted mattresses from local transfer stations and surrounding landfills. Gutierrez said the proposed center would provide valuable business, education, training and life skills to individuals who currently have minimal job skills.

Terra Consulting, the honorable mention winner, is a business idea offering a service to commercial clients assisting in redesign and reconstruction of the way their business operates while keeping sustainability, energy efficiency and the bottom line in mind.

“Keeping our customers’ business objectives and lifestyle in mind, we would strive to find the perfect harmony between sustainability and efficiency,” said Terra Consulting team member Aurora Larrazolo.

Larrazolo was among the few non-business school students who participated in the competition. Working on her Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in communications, this 2007 graduate of Saint Joseph Academy is scheduled to graduate from UTB and TSC in May 2014. Larrazolo said the class project was a positive experience, and she feels certain she will be able to use what she has learned when she finds her marketing and public relations “dream job” in Houston or Austin.

“One of the mandates of the School of Business is to prepare our students for the challenges of the business and commerce world tomorrow,” said Dr. Mark Kroll, Dean of the School of Business. “Along with our partners in the private business sector, we are responsible for training the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Valley. Projects such as this will help equip students with the necessary skills for success.”

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