Finalists and spectators alike cheered as the winners of the 2012 HCC Newspring Business Plan Competition were announced during a reception at the HCC Spring Branch campus.
This year’s competition, sponsored by the Ed Rachal Foundation, HEB Tournament of Champions and the Indo American Charitable Foundation, drew 19 teams, culminating with five finalists who presented their business plans before a panel of distinguished judges.
The teams were advised by over 40 volunteer business professionals through Newspring.
First prize of $12,000 went to Brenda Prejean and Christi Carter of Hour Playtime, the “play”care alternative to daycare which gives parents time to play.
Hour Playtime provides a fun and safe environment for children with educational reinforcement activities. Children with special needs are also welcome at Hour Playtime. The first place winner was advised by Harry Tallichet and Troy Utz.
Second prize of $8,000 went to Brendon Tripp and Brian Hart for Trinity Garden Solutions, an environmentally friendly lawn and pond care company.
Both Tripp and Hart are alumni of the HCC horticulture program housed at the college’s Katy campus. Trinity Garden Solutions was advised by Marcus Greenspan and Art Fallon.
The third place winners, LaTasha King and Joseph Crump, won $4,000 for their business LL Bridal, a bridal and formal dress boutique for plus-size women and teens. The team was advised by Scott Owen and Clarinda Bell-Fletcher.
Honorable mentions included Lauren Taylor for the The Block Party, a survey website that captures an individual’s ideology and matches them with like-minded political candidates, and Nishantha Gajanayake for Spear Applications which develops web-based applications. Each honorable mention received a $1,000 check for their business plan.
When Hour Playtime was announced as the first-prize winner, Prejean shared how the uniqueness of welcoming special needs children stems from the love she has for her own special needs child. Prejean also thanked her advisers who were guiding her and her team mate through the 11th hour.
“The Business Plan Competition made a big difference in the direction of our business. My partner and I thought we were ready to start our business, but we needed this experience and direction from our advisers to help us get to the next step of making our business a reality,” Prejean said.
The annual Business Plan Competition is held in partnership with Newspring, a local social entrepreneurship, nonprofit organization founded by Robert Westheimer in 2006. Part of Newspring’s mission includes nurturing new and existing businesses in Spring Branch.
The mission is supported by their recruitment of business leaders who serve as mentors and advisers for students who enter the Business Plan Competition.
Westheimer compared Newspring and the competition to “The Little Engine That Could” since the organization started off with a dream with nobody knowing where it would go. The comparison rang true for several of the competition’s contestants, and Westheimer encouraged all of them to know that their hard work did not go unnoticed.
“There will be a time in your life when you will need to describe your idea to someone, and they will get it and understand you,” Westheimer said. “What you gained through this experience will be rewarded with tremendous dividends in the future.”
Jack Barry, retired CEO, consultant, author and Business Plan Competition leader, offered words of advice for all of the contestants and the winners.
“This competition is not about today only. It’s about what you do with the rest of your lives. What you do from here will make the prize money trivial. What is more important is how many people you can positively influence,” Barry said.
Dr. Zachary R. Hodges, President of HCC Northwest, closed the reception by emphasizing the importance of collaboration and mentoring.
“Why would we want to go at something like this alone, when we can do it together? At the same time, we are building communities and building lives,” Hodges said.
The HCC Center for Entrepreneurship, a collective vision of Hodges and Westheimer, was established in 2009 by Dr. Maya Durnovo, HCC Dean of Economic and Workforce Development, and Sandra Louvier, HCC Center for Entrepreneurship Director.
“The Center prepares aspiring and recently launched entrepreneurs to weather the rigors of a real-world business plan competition,” Louvier said. “Some participate to create growth plans to grow smaller businesses. Our goal is to empower success and mitigate risk for small business owners.”
The center is positioned to provide a focal point to new entrepreneurs for ongoing training and networking within the business community through workshops, seminars, classes and entrepreneur certificate programs.