Eli J. Sonkin, a junior majoring in finance, investment and banking, took first prize in the Wiscontrepreneur Whiteboard Challenge for his plan to capitalize on the limited supply of vegetarian shoes available in the U.S. by purchasing exclusive U.S. production rights from U.K.-based Vegetarian Shoes and manufacture and sell their product in the U.S. to meet domestic demand.
Vegetarian Shoes sells high-quality, cruelty-free, faux-leather shoes, made without animal products so they're desired by both vegetarians and environmentally-conscious consumers. Currently, the few U.S. distributors that carry them have a limited selection and are often sold out, so U.S. customers order and have them shipped directly from the U.K.
Altogether, ten UW-Madison students competed for $600 in the fall Whiteboard Challenge. The competition gave competitors five minutes and the use of a whiteboard to present innovative technology concepts, novel solutions to known problems, new business propositions, or other unique ideas to a panel of five local business owners judging the competition.
Kendra Hill, an MBA student in brand and product management, tied for second prize with her early-stage company, SpiritCompetitions.com -- an online cheerleading and dance (spirit) competition database that connects event coordinators and participants of cheerleading and dance events. In 2001, Hill founded and operated a cheerleading and dance services company called HYPE Cheer & Dance, Inc.; spiritcompetitions.com is a spin off.
Hill also earned a fall 2011 Student Venture Seed Grant of up to $3,000 from the Office of the Chancellor as a resource to help with further development of her venture. Once the cheerleading and dance version is worked out, she hopes to expand into other sports.
Among other student seed grant winners from the business school are Will Garland, an undergraduate student majoring in entrepreneurship and life science marketing, and Martin Clarke, an undergraduate majoring in finance and economics. Garland’s company, StudentBoat, LLC, is an online platform for motivated students to create their own source for scholarship funds by showcasing their backgrounds and goals to potential supporters. Clarke joined with three other students across campus on the development of the Longboard Sling, a device designed for convenient hands-free transportation of a longboard skateboard when not in use.