Fall 2023 Capstone Competition Winners Announced

Winning Fall 2023 Capstone team posing with their mentor Marie Adornato

The Capstone course is the conclusion of every business student’s education at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. This required 3-credit course inspires fourth-year students to expand their entrepreneurial and leadership skills through a semester-long project that results in a profitable business plan. 


 “The Capstone project at Whitman represents a pivotal and comprehensive academic endeavor for students, designed to synthesize and apply their cumulative learning. It's an opportunity for practical application of theoretical knowledge, fostering the development of critical skills, such as research, critical thinking, entrepreneurial mindset and project management,” says U. David Park, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. “As a deep dive into a chosen area of interest, the Capstone project prepares students for professional life, serving as a bridge between academia and the workforce or further studies. It marks the culmination of their academic journey, contributing to personal growth and confidence building, while also potentially adding new insights to their field of study. The capstone project is not just a milestone in a Whitman student's educational path but a transformative experience that readies them for future challenges and opportunities, laying a solid foundation for their success in diverse professional landscapes.”


At the beginning of December, 59 teams in the fall 2023 Capstone course pitched their business plans to a panel of judges. Five teams made it to the final round, where they pitched ideas across various industries, including food care and safety, mental health, sports safety and PCB remediation. A panel of judges including Ryan Benz ’11 M.S., Blake Brossman ’98 (VPA) and El Java Abdul-Qadir ’99 (A&S) G’02, P’26 determined the winners.  


GroupThrive landed first place with an innovative company dedicated to making therapy more accessible to college students through a group therapy application. Through the Group Thrive application, individuals can find a therapist, access therapy based on the preferred size of the group and connect at a cost that is lower than individual therapy, which is not readily accessible for students and those ages 18-24. Group Thrive consisted of Mia Perry ’24 (IST), Trevor Blum ’24 (A&S), Ethan Hirsh ’24, Robert J. O’Connell ’24 and Lauren Foley ’24 and was under the supervision of Adjunct Professor Marie Adornato.  


“The idea for our business came from personal experience and the goal to find a solution to over-booked and expensive therapy services. So, the idea to create an application and connection to lower cost group therapy was born as GroupThrive,” says Perry, noting that this was the hardest but most rewarding project she’s ever worked on. “The team had to use our individual strengths and then decide who would ultimately lead the group, which required learning to pivot and readjust to make the idea and plan come to life.” Perry believes that the team was successful due to honing their business development skills and the support of Adornato.  


The second-place team, MultiWrap, dove into a sustainable solution and healthy option replacement for standard food plastic wrap. The hope is that this new product can reduce birth defects and fertility issues often related to nanoplastics in the environment. Isabella Simon ’24 (NEW), Regan Ryan ’24, Rohit Narasimhan ’24 (NEW) and Phoebe Gullingsrud ’24 (NEW) developed Multi Wrap under the supervision of Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben.  


“Capstone was my first taste of entrepreneurship, and building MultiWrap was an incredible learning experience,” says Simon. “Our team worked hard to overcome setbacks, developing not only our business sense but also our leadership, collaboration and time management skills. The Capstone competition was a rewarding, unforgettable culmination of my Whitman education with the support of our team and Professor Walsleben.”


SkiSafe took third place, creating a wearable wristband that uses NASA patented technology to pair a mobile app with a person’s heart rate, as well as quickly give a precise location on ski mountains in rugged terrain. Teammates Ethan Walsh ’24, Cassidy Kepcher ’24, Alivia Catania ’24, Raul Orozco ’24 and Julia Foley ’24 built this device and were also supervised by Adornato.


“As a group, we learned a lot about building a company over the semester. Most importantly we discovered that being passionate about what you're working on makes the process easier and more enjoyable,” says Walsh. “We knew that Capstone was a rewarding, yet time consuming, process. Our product was something that we all cared a lot about, knowing that it could make a sport that so many love safer. We came up with the idea after realizing that we, ourselves, as well as friends, and family members, have either been injured or lost on a mountain, and we wanted to create a solution to get help faster without the need for cell reception.”


Honorable mention was given to the two teams who rounded out the top five. Team FreshCheck, which had a new system to test the freshness of products inside of the packaging, was comprised of Ryan Molta '24, Jaynie Leavy '24 (NEW),  Justin Laughlin '24, Phalen Salvador '24 and Sofia Perez '24. Team PCBGone worked with a NASA technology to deliver an innovative new method of removing PCBs from buildings and rehab sites. The team was formed by Rachel Renzi '24 (NEW), Jasmine Kaur '24Emily Devito '24James Eagan '24 and Melissa Pauly '24.



Says Adornato, “The Capstone experience provides a multifaceted opportunity to integrate conceptual knowledge, team management and personal endurance. The competition is a rite of passage, preparing Whitman graduates for their future endeavors in the business world. As a proud professor and practicing entrepreneur, overseeing the progress of SU students solving real-life problems is so gratifying. One of my proudest moments during the competition was having two of my teams placing in the top five.”


Thanks to all of the faculty, alumni and other Whitman partners who served as judges in this year’s competition, including El Java Abdul-Qadir ’99 (A&S) G’02, P ’26; Ryan Benz ’11 M.S.; Rebecca Bostwick ’19, Kimberly Boynton ’13, Charlene Bozzi ’15, Blake Brossman ’98 (VPA); Rickey Brown ’95, John Buhrmaster ’86, Brandon Camperlino ’09, Brady Cass, Mike Durkin, Elisabeth Dwyer ’06, Jeff Eades ’85 (A&S); Laura Gates ’84, Traci Geisler ’90 (A&S); Jeff Gribble, Ryan Henry ’21, Peter King ’08, Ron Klein, Sang Lee, William Leiker ’06, Professor David Lucas, Ashish Mare ’11, Mauricio Mercado, Eric Rose ’15, Professor Minet Schindehutte, Gary Stevens ’12, Jeff Thompson ’94, Meghan Tidd, Kelly Tran ’19, Gregg Tweedy ’88, Jim Tylenda ’72, Fred Vona ’11, Mike Woloszyn ’10 and Ryan York ’06.


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