SRU places two teams in the Business of Humanity competition finals

Woman looking up

Two of the five finalists for the Business of Humanity Project's New Venture Competition are from students in Slippery Rock University's Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation course.

Oct. 25, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Picture this: Groups of aspiring entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of judges who will award money for the best idea. Sound like the TV show "Shark Tank"? It could be, except in this case, the Business of Humanity Project's New Venture Competition, contestants are motivated by the human spirit, instead of the jaws of profit-hungry investors.

Two of the competition's five finalists were submitted by Slippery Rock University students from the School of Business course, "Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation." The two teams, consisting of nine SRU students, will present their business ideas in front of a judging panel, Nov. 3 at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. The cash prizes are $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $2,000 for third.

"Many people associate business with strictly profit," said Frances Amatucci, associate professor of business, who is teaching the class that participated in the competition. "People think that businesses are just driven by the bottom line and they don't care about the planet or people. We can do good and do well at the same time."

Frances Amatucci

   Amatucci

The Business of Humanity Project is a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business and Swanson School of Engineering that partners with four other western Pennsylvania universities: SRU, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Robert Morris University.

BoH created the New Venture Competition this year to get undergraduate and graduate students thinking creatively about ways businesses can support the project's initiative.

"Business schools and the business sector can play a major role in solving the world's problems related to environmental sustainability, safety, gender equality and so on," said Amatucci, who in 2010 conducted a BoH-funded case study of an Alcoa manufacturing plant in Russia.

Amatucci tasked her students to incorporate elements of humaneness into theoretical businesses. Students from her Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Innovation class accounted for six of the competition's entries.

"I never really thought about values as a company and taking that into consideration," said Michelle Slavik, a senior dance major from Downingtown. "I enjoyed having the humanities aspect because I think it's important whether you're an artist or a CEO. It can be challenging, looking at all the logistics and how you actually make it happen."

Michelle Slavik

   Slavik

Slavik is one of five SRU students who submitted the "SmartSnacks" idea that was chosen as a finalist. The group's business model involves a mail-order subscription service for alternative

healthy snacks, offered at a discount compared to traditional retailers and with a 10-percent donation to an organization dedicated to ending child hunger.

The other finalist from SRU is for "Wraps Around the World," an idea for a food truck company that provides an international menu and employs sustainability business practices such as recyclable and biodegradable packaging, a diesel engine run on vegetable oil and generating zero waste.

"It should be a business model that makes money and is implementable, and is must incorporate elements of humaneness," Amatucci said. "It's tough competition but to me they are winners already."

As part of the submission process, the students had to create a 1,200-word proposal and a five-minute video describing their business venture.

"I didn't expect (to be a finalist); it was a good surprise," Slavik said. "We weren't super-focused on the competition; we just wanted to have an idea and a product that would be good quality. We learned a lot."

The SRU finalists will compete with other finalists from Pitt and IUP. Submissions were open to any of the five schools in the BoH partnership.

The "SmartSnacks" team includes:
-Slavik.
-Ryan Ferguson, a senior marketing major from Apollo.
-Alexandra Fischer, a senior management major from New Castle.
-Cassidy Negri, a senior dance major from Zelienople.
-Nicholas Yochum, a senior management major from Cranberry Township.

The "Wraps Around the World" team includes:
-Amanda Hazuda, a senior management major from Mercer.
-Nicole Pollock, a senior geography: environment and society major from Slippery Rock.
-Jenna Swarmer, a senior management major from Cranberry Township.
-Spencer Voltz, a junior management major from Cabot.

For more information about the Business of Humanity Project, visit: https://boh.pitt.edu/

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu