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College tour company victorious

By : Rachel Coker

The winning team from College Tours USA includes (clockwise from top left): Alana Shaiman, Matthew Katz, Tobias Ebert, Lina Ng and Mary Pulla. The students' business will offer teen-only campus visits.
A proposal for a teen-only college tour company won the annual Business Plan Competition, held Monday in the School of Management.

Five companies made up of undergraduate and graduate students in Angelo Mastrangelo’s entrepreneurship class competed for $2,500 in seed money. Judges Richard Botnick, Ray Osterhout and Thomas Thorn evaluated the proposals based on 20-minute presentations and business plans.

The contest, now in its seventh year, offers an additional $2,500 to businesses that are operating in Broome County a year after they win. Mastrangelo said six companies developed in the course are now in operation.

“Students see the class as something that’s going to help them realize their own dreams,” he said. “These people don’t see it as an academic exercise.”

Mastrangelo noted that students today see going into business for themselves as a key not only to professional freedom but also as potentially more secure than a job in the traditional corporate world.

The class focuses not only on how to be an entrepreneur but also on how to be entrepreneurial. It includes practical work as well as guest lectures from business people who have found success and some whose plans failed. Mastrangelo said he emphasizes helping students learn how to identify a business opportunity. Osterhout, retired group vice president and underwriting and marketing manager for the United States Swiss Reinsurance Corp., has judged the contest several times. “I’d hire any or all of you,” he told the students after Monday’s presenta-tions. “It’s very rewarding to me personally to see the work you all put into this.” This year’s proposals included an online dorm décor firm as well as a Binghamton real estate development group.

The winning idea came from College Tours USA, brainchild of Matthew Katz, a 21-year-old senior from Roslyn Heights, Long Island, and a friend who attends another university. Joining them in the venture are Binghamton students Tobias Ebert, Lina Ng, Mary Pulla and Alana Shaiman.

Their proposal focuses on four day, all-inclusive bus trips that will leave from Long Island and take high school students on tours of six colleges. For $799 students may visit Boston schools, a group of schools in and around Wash-ington, D.C., or campuses in central New York. The premise is that high school students would benefit from current college students’ knowledge when choosing a school and that many working families are unable to arrange campus visits.

Katz expects he’ll look for another full-time job as he works to get the company off the ground. “My heart and soul is in this,” he said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08