Student Entrepreneurs Roll Out Concepts in Cornell Competition

Customized French pastries in Japan; medical tourism to Istanbul; Chinese tourism to Jeju, Korea; hotel employee training in Sri Lanka; and the world’s best hummus. These concepts and five others are being presented in the 2014 Hospitality Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Pillsbury Institute. The teams are putting finishing touches on their written proposals, in hopes of advancing to the final round where they will be able pitch their concept to judges during HEC weekend in March 2014. In addition to cash prizes for seed money, the teams will gain the experience in conceptualizing, researching, and articulating a business idea, all skills they will need to have to successfully launch a business.

Several concepts have grown out of the students’ personal experience. For example, Yanlin Pei, who is on team myHealth, explained that the genesis of her idea came when a friend fell ill, needed to go elsewhere for treatment, and did not know how to start. myHealth thus will provide complete travel service support for patients traveling to Istanbul for orthopedic procedures. Another concept that captures the idea of doing well by doing good is Saira, which is in the process of setting up an urgently needed hotel training program in Sri Lanka. As explained by Harsha Chanrai and Felix Tabary, the island’s industry is growing so rapidly that a training program will benefit both the industry and local residents.

Members of team Triplanner have observed the need for a new travel approach that offers customized travel activities on the scenic island of Jeju, where one team member has personal experience. Another concept, Zeniden, which will offer space for company-approved midday naps, grew out of the observation of the value of naps.

Two food concepts, Hummus Holdings and The Beer Lab, were created in response to consumers’ desire for fresh, local food and more information about food products. Christopher Kirby and Salim Bure, both classically trained chefs, have already rolled out their concept of fresh hummus that is locally produced. Cole McCormack and his team members in The Beer Lab have reached the point of product testing, and eventually they will train people to produce their own brew. A third food concept, ChuShop, fills a need in the Japanese market for profiteroles, customized French-style pastries that are extremely popular there, according to Tara Lobo. Drawing on his real estate expertise, team member Shintaro Maejima will use the winter break to scout possible locations for the shop.

Teams are composed of students in Cornell’s SHA Master of Management in Hospitality program, SHA undergraduates, the Johnson Graduate School of Management, and the Sloan Program in Health Administration. Several team members met each other because of their interest in a particular concept and their complementary skills. Many of the students bring considerable entrepreneurial and business experience to their concepts. They appreciate the support they have received from SHA’s faculty and the school’s resources, including a class focusing on creating a business plan taught by Senior Lecturer Neil Tarallo. Individual faculty members have also encouraged—and even prodded—the teams to crystalize their concepts.

The ten teams will soon finalize their business plans, and up to five semifinalists will be chosen to present their concepts next March during Hotel Ezra Cornell. Thanks to gifts from the Sun family, Stanley Sun SHA ’00 and his parents Dennis and Betty Sun; Marriott Hotels; Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Steve Thomson ’82; Avendra; and Elizabeth Golmsrud ’00 and Barbara Foote Shingleton ’75, the competition provides $15,000 for the winning concept, $5,000 for the runner-up, and $2,500 for the third place concept. Regardless of the outcome, the competition’s goal is to assist these entrepreneurs in creating their new businesses, some of which are already in operation or soon will open.

The ten teams are:
Beer Lab (education and quality ingredients for brewing): Chelsey Garman, Francesco Jimenez, Aasir Khan, Cole McCormack;
ChuShop (custom profiteroles in Tokyo): Tara Lobo, Shintaro Maejima, Naoko Yoshida;
Good Travel: Spencer Stein, Chris Villnueva;
Hummus Holdings (fresh, local hummus): Salim Bure, Christopher Kirby;
myHealth (medical travel arrangements to Istanbul): Anthony Brown, Julia Koseneski, Yanlin Pei, Murat Uralkan;
ONcierge: Elsie Namnath, Clowie Tan;
Rex Ginger: Aditya Chirimar, Insha Malhotra;
Saira (educating and placing hotel workers in Sri Lanka): Harsha Chanrai, Felix Tabary;
Triplanner (custom travel arrangements to Jeju, Korea): Jiha Jung, Ha Lim Lee, Thian Koon Oh, Grace Schiodtz, Yuan Xia; and
Zeniden (daytime space for rest and reenergizing): Evan Doran, Rebecca Green, Sara Kim, Margalit Kohanim, and Kyle Reardon.