Fall 2022 Capstone Competition Winners Announced

The Capstone course is the conclusion of every business student’s education at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Whitman offers this 3-credit course to inspire fourth-year students to expand their entrepreneurial and leadership skills through a semester-long project resulting in a profitable business plan. 
“What separates winning teams from others is rarely the quality of their ideas, but rather the quality of their effort. Ideas are comparatively ‘cheap.’ Execution is what separates winners from others,” says Ken Walsleben, professor of entrepreneurial practice. 
At the beginning of December, each team in the fall 2022 Capstone courses pitched their business plans to a panel of judges - a twist this year, as the School invited a panel of alumni entrepreneurs to speak to the students about their experiences. The panel included Ryan Benz ’11 M.S., Jamie Hall ‘09 and Brandon Reiter ‘16 This year’s finalists pitched ideas across various industries, including self-care sustainability, technology-led student accommodations and cloud-based data applications. 
Phair, the project that landed first place, developed an innovative company dedicated to reducing plastic waste from shower products. Through Phair, sleek and easy-to-install dispensers containing shampoo and conditioner are sold in concentrated water-soluble packaging. Taras Colopelnic ’23, Hannah Cotel-Altman ’23, Trevor Kaminski ’23, Molly Lawrence ’23 (WSM/NEW) and Leah Poland ’23 created the product to promote sustainability under the direction of Walsleben.
“While creating our business plan, I gained a range of valuable skills and insights. One of the most notable was a greater understanding of the logistics industry and other business sectors,” says team member Cotel-Altman. “When a whole team is working cohesively on aspects of a business plan that you might not be thoroughly familiar with, you do the research, talk to professors, industry leaders and partners our team wants to work with. You learn how to apply your in-class experience from the past four years to the goals your team is working towards.” 
The second-place team, MyStoryVerse, dove into the education industry by creating a multisensory learning application that helps students with dyslexia learn how to read. Using high-quality content and animation, users enter the “Story Verse” and watch the application produce corresponding visual aspects as they read the story aloud. Marin Grillo ’23, Jessica Healy ’23, Ethan Montgomery ’23, Drew Parsekian ’23 and Mariana Romualdo ’23 developed MyStoryVerse under the direction of Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice John Torrens, deputy department chair of EEE.
“Our group came up with this idea early on in the semester, but it took us a while to understand what we would do with it,” shares Parsekian “Half the group had doubts about the business, but as time went on and we started to understand our application and what we could do with it to help children, I think we all fell in love with it. Throughout the semester, we never had any animosity towards one another, and our ability to work as a team and execute our individual responsibilities pushed us to have great success.”
The third-place team, Streamline, created an innovative application that revolutionizes how local and cloud-based data is accessed. Teammates Mira Berenbaum ’23 (WSM/NEW), Michael Caldiero ’23, Sam Holland ’23 (WSM/NEW), Spencer McGowan ’23 and Carolina Thompson ’23 came together to build an API-integrated search engine to find digital files in under 10 seconds. Streamline was also advised under direction of Walsleben.
Win or lose, Capstone is a critical and gratifying experience for every Whitman student, as well as the faculty who mentor them. 
“I’ve received many a thrill during my working career in the industry, but these intrinsic Capstone rewards rival any of those from my past,” says MyStoryVerse team member Healy. 
“Watching 300 seniors do their best on Capstone Friday is a thrill not easily duplicated,” adds Walsleben. “That’s part of our unique ‘magic’ and should always be protected.”           

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