'Be Your Own Boss' festival features student businesses, draws crowds all day
Student businesses display their promotional materials on the patio at the Trabant University Center.
Senior apparel design major Jessica Lapidos poses with her garment, featured as part of the Synergy Fashion Group's display.
Photo courtesy of Captured Concepts
Photo courtesy of Captured Concepts

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10:35 a.m., May 21, 2010----The sights and sounds of innovation were evident on the outdoor patio of Trabant University Center during the University of Delaware Venture Development Center's first “Be Your Own Boss” festival, held Thursday, May 13. The daylong event, which was designed to help students gain an understanding of the various ways their fellow classmates have chosen to represent the entrepreneurial spirit of UD, featured a variety of undergraduate and graduate businesses and student organizations.

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The festival was truly a display of diversity in innovation and showcased businesses representing industries ranging from food to fashion.

Keith Modzelewski, BFA '06, co-founder of Captured Concepts, works at the Venture Development Center (VDC) and helped coordinate student involvement in the festival.

“We wanted to highlight the entrepreneurial work UD students are doing,” he said. “We also want to get the word out to students that being an entrepreneur doesn't mean you have to be a business major, and it doesn't mean you have to wear a suit and tie. Entrepreneurs come from all different backgrounds, and the VDC welcomes students from all schools and departments across the University.”

Modzelewski co-founded his business in 2005 with friend David Huynh, BFA '06. Captured Concepts is a full-service photography and design firm based in Delaware and provides visual, creative and conceptual solutions for business and personal needs.

When asked what advice they could offer to would-be entrepreneurs, Huynh explained the importance of finding a good business partner.

“Keith and I are great friends, and you need a good business partner to be successful,” he said. “It is important to establish trust and be able to read each other. We'll go to a photo shoot, and all I need to do is glance over and Keith will know the shot I need him to take. Networking is also really important. You can't be afraid to put yourself out there.”

Perfecting a family recipe

Matthew Racz, a junior operations management major, is the founder of Gotta B.Y.O.M., a business he created to help supplement his college expenses while attending UD. Gotta B.Y.O.M. (Bring Your Own Milk) began when Racz decided to tweak and perfect a family recipe that was well-received by friends and family members. His business focuses solely on creating oatmeal cookies that are all natural, fresh and made from organic ingredients, including whole wheat and ancient grain flours and flax seed.

In building his business, Racz worked with the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships at UD, the VDC, and partnered with Cannon's Custom Cakes & Bakery in Newark, Del. (whose owners graciously agreed to offer Racz the commercial kitchen space required to get his cookie company off the ground).

Mother-daughter team

Ashley Paintsil, a sophomore psychology major and entrepreneurial studies minor, works with mother and interior designer Julia Paintsil of Newark, Del. as co-designer and face of the Simply Julia Totes brand. Simply Julia Totes began when Paintsil's mother created a tote from extra pieces of tapestry material and friends started asking for their own totes.

“I thought the totes were an amazing accessory for a woman's wardrobe,” said Painstil, “and started working with my mom to help design them. The great thing is that no two bags are the same.”

Guide for diners

Kristi Gottlieb and Samantha Bevacqua, both senior marketing majors and international business minors, were on the TUC patio to promote their business and Newark's number one dining guide, HungryHens.com.

The two began the Web site in the fall of 2007 with fellow student Kimberly Stelb in order to provide an interactive, user-friendly database to display menus, phone numbers, addresses and hours of operation for favorite eateries and bars in the Newark area. HungryHens.com offers online ordering, food specials and coupon deals in an effort to provide a resource for people's dining needs.

Entrepreneurship Club

Joshua Barchat, a sophomore honors marketing major with minors in international business and entrepreneurial studies, represented the UD Entrepreneurship Club in his role as vice president of marketing.

“The club is open to all majors,” he said. “We're here today because we really want to broaden our reach to students outside of the business school. We're a registered student organization that is open to anyone who has the desire or idea to be an entrepreneur.”

The Entrepreneurship Club meets regularly during the academic semester and will resume in the fall.

All about fashion

Students from UDress, a multidisciplinary fashion-based club consisting of members with majors ranging from fashion merchandising and apparel design to communications, were also present at the festival.

“The club publishes the UDress Magazine, and everyone on staff is a UD student,” said Jessica Lapidos, editor-in-chief of the magazine and senior apparel design major.

“Being a part of the publication process gives students a real working experience as editors, stylists, models and art directors of a fashion magazine and prepares them for potential career tracks in the fashion industry.”

Paula Bonanno, a sophomore honors fashion merchandising major, acts as the treasurer for Synergy Fashion Group, a registered student organization that is dedicated to providing an open forum for fashion-interested students to congregate and share their creativity.

Each spring, the Synergy Club sponsors an annual fashion show of student designs. The club is entirely student-run, and members are responsible for all elements of producing the fashion show, which consists of garments submitted by advanced apparel design students. Highlights of the show also include the Senior Apparel Collections and the Blank Canvas Competition.

Enterprising undergraduates

Marc Vinci, a sophomore finance and marketing major, promoted BusBookie. The business, which boasts origins as the first place winner in the undergraduate division of the 2009 UD Business Plan Competition, was founded by Vinci's fraternity brother Francois Chaubard (BME '10) and Brandon Mass. BusBookie offers reliable, affordable bus trips to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York and anywhere in between.

Last but certainly not least, Connie Helstosky, a junior animal science major, promoted the UDairy Creamery, an entirely student-run business based in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The creamery aims to be a student-managed, independent and sustainable business that produces and distributes premium ice cream made from the milk produced by UD's herd of Holstein cows.

“We just broke ground on the store front and ice cream processing facility that will be on the CANR campus,” said Helstosky. “We've also sold UDairy ice cream in bulk and at campus events, and we're working now toward developing the creamery as a profitable and sustainable business.”

According to Modzelewski, more than 200 individuals had passed through the festival by noon and at least 100 more were expected before the end of the day.

“It seems to have been a huge success so far,” he said. “I hope this is something we can continue to offer each year.”

The VDC is an applied learning laboratory housed in the Lerner College of Business and Economics.

At the VDC, UD students can pursue entrepreneurship through the creation of a new business. Student-owned and -operated businesses receive administrative office space that enables them to concentrate on developing their business concepts. Because the facility is an extension of the entrepreneurship programs offered by UD, students also receive intensive mentoring and a variety of other assistance.

The VDC was created to find new venture ideas and build successful businesses, as well as to provide education and networking opportunities for students. It is a process for students to turn great ideas into great businesses, and the VDC encourages students to take an idea from the concept phase to a full business plan and create the opportunity to build a new venture.

For more information on the VDC, contact Scott Jones, professor of accounting and entrepreneurial studies at [sjones@udel.edu].

Article by Kathryn Ann Marrone
Photos by Kathryn Ann Marrone and Captured Concepts

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