The competition was founded in collaboration with event sponsor Dr. Jeremy Office in 2013 and named after his grandfather, a mentor and entrepreneur. Now in its fourth year, the Isaacson Innovation Challenge has judged nearly 30 business concepts.
Four ideas were presented this year to judges Richard Pollack, entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Vetify; Elis J. Parker, real estate entrepreneur and program contributor; Deborah Landford, consultant for Florida Small Business Development Center; and Miguel Sonnak, MBA student and former competition winner.
Cameron Hewes, a senior in the Conservatory of Music, took first place and a $3,000 prize with his online store for sheet music, Cam Co. He has studied clarinet for 16 years and found that online retailers for clarinet sheet music were lacking the user experience consumers expect today.
The fundamentals of Hughes’ proposed web-based company are easy navigation, quality content and powerful search functions, and his target buyer is internet-savvy college-age musicians. “This will give today’s musicians the experience they want,” said Hewes.
Snap Yoga, conceptualized by MBA student Jade Wiggins, received the $1,200 second-place prize. Wiggins’ workout mat and easy snap-on towel created a versatile and convenient two-in-one accessory, which she said filled a gap in the $80 million global yoga market.
“In hot yoga, you’re hot, sweaty and slipping,” said Wiggins. “This product solves that problem.”
In third place, winning $800 to support her business venture, MBA student Barbara Llossas presented the P.E.T. Cap to the judges. The product, featuring the tagline “shower your pet with love,” was designed to help reduce the occurrence and severity of ear infections during pet grooming. Llossas is first-to-market in this category and obtained a product patent in 2012. Her pet shower cap is currently available on Etsy.
Past challenge winners include Chad Barr, associate professor of sports management, for his mobile device holder Tab-Legs; Max Vanderploeg ’15, ’17 for Autopark, a stacked parking system; Miguel Sonnack ‘15 for his SK5 speakers; and Stephany Lopez Da Silva ’16 for All Shapes and Colors, a specialty brand for same-sex parents and their children.
The Isaacson Innovation Challenge launches annually in the fall semester. Students, employees and alumni interested in participating in the 2018 competition can contact Brian Sommer, director of special projects in the College of Business and Management. Sommer also welcomes introductions to potential judges.