On Friday night, Daniel Brunt and apartment-mate Christopher Genualdi pitched a panel of judges about their business, Sniff-Stick LLC, and won $2,000.
“Wake up and breathe happy, that’s our motto,” Brunt said during the pitch. A fast-talking business major from Connecticut, Brunt said he saw the concept while in Thailand, where people carry small capsules with pleasant aromas. Brunt passed out several during the pitch, and they smelled refreshing and faintly of Menthol.
“It’s a breath mint for your nose,” Brunt said.
Said Genualdi during the pitch, “There are already other products for every other senses — iPods for sounds, YouTube for visual. Scent has been neglected, and it’s the only sense connected with the portion of the brain that controls emotions.”
This isn’t the duo’s first try at the contest. Last year they wrote a business plan for a YouTube-style website for college campuses. For Sniff-Stick, they hope to raise an additional $28,000.
There were 26 entries for this year’s business plan competition, twice as many as last year. Of the 26, four finalists pitched their concepts Friday evening to a panel of four judges. Several of the budding companies also get support and advice from the faculty at UR.
Brunt and Genualdi said that they put in about 250 hours on the Sniff-Stick concept and joked that they were even booted from the Regency mall while soliciting market research.
They aim to sell the plastic scented devices to 15- to 30-year-olds in the Richmond, Boston and New York markets (the three markets they know best). In their first year, they hope to expose 1 million consumers to the idea.
One of their strategies is to have in-store demos. “We need to show people how to use it,” Brunt said.
Mike McGinley, one of the judges who works for New Dominion Angels, asked during the pitch, “I love it. What could you do if you had $250,000?” (The other judges were Chris Scott, from GreenTech, Karen Booth Adams, from Genesis Consulting, and Mike Matthews, from Hankins and Anderson.)
After the four teams presented, the judges discussed the merits of each plan. They debated the potential of each idea, the energy and excitement of the presenters, and the polish of each presentation.
Hoogle, a search database like Google that gives the money generated from sponsored advertising to the United Nation’s World Food program, won the $500 second place prize. You can read more about that company in a New York Times blog here.
“You are searching for yourself, and searching for hunger,” said Salmaan Ayaz, one of the founders. The site is getting about 100,000 visitors a week, he said, in part by using social networking sites like Facebook and mainstream PR. Ayaz said during his pitch that Hoongle will have $25 million in revenue in year 5.
The expenses are minimal because the company does not run the search technology, instead outsourcing that to another company such as Yahoo or Google.
The two other business plans:
Social Addiction: a company that would help bars and restaurants create websites with updated photos of their parties, essentially handling one part of the marketing.
Swaboo.com: a website that allows college students to exchange text books with one another instead of selling them back to, and buying used from, on-campus bookstores. The site makes money by handling the exchange and charging a 7 percent fee. Swaboo also makes money from Amazon when it refers customers there.
The founders, freshman Remo Kommick and senior Vladimir Hruda, said they plan on testing it out at UR and Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, when students buy lots of books. They’ve designed all the logos and built the infrastructure and the website without any outside investment.
According to their business plan, they expect to have a profit of $223,000 in the third year, in part by franchising the business to entrepreneurs at other colleges.
Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. He covers startups for RBS. Please send news tips to [email protected]