Marathon winners, from left to right, Matthew Robert, Alex Johnson, Thomas Volpe and Matt Flynn.
Dressed in suits and ties, dresses and heels, students from New York and Vermont spoke their way to success in the second annual Free Enterprise Marathon March 7.
The marathon took place at SUNY Plattsburgh from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and included schools such as Clarkson University, SUNY Canton, University of Vermont, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Adirondack, Norwich University, Clinton Community College, Saint Michael’s College, Southern Vermont College and SUNY Plattsburgh; two more schools than last year’s marathon.
Each school competed in three contests throughout the day consisting of the speak-off finals, team creativity and innovation challenge and the Mug-of-War presentations. After the competitions, awards were given out to schools in each category during the dinner and awards banquet later that evening.
For the speak-off finals, Matt Flynn from Clarkson University received first place with Tom Volpe from SUNY New Paltz coming in second, Matthew Robert from SUNY Plattsburgh coming in third and Alex Johnson from Norwich University coming in fourth.
“The speak-off was much better than last year,” said Nancy Church, chair of the Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship. “Last year, we didn’t win anything, so I was happy that we had a third place winner.”
At the beginning, 36 schools received the invitation to compete, but the first 12 who submitted the “Commitment to Participate” form were able to compete. To determine who would attend the speak-off finals, each of the 12 campuses competed from Nov. 1 to Feb. 12, leaving one representative from each school to compete for their school.
“I felt honored for the opportunity to represent SUNY Plattsburgh,” Robert said. “To have placed against so many talented and accomplished speakers was a huge accomplishment for me.”
The topic of the speak-off challenge was “Free Enterprise: What this Country needs is more Entrepreneurs.” During Roberts five minutes of speaking, he focused on the idea that the country needs not just an entrepreneur but a specific type to make the US grow in a positive way by introducing names such as Blake Mycoskie and Bill Gates.
After the speak-off finals, the speak-off finalists participated in the first ever Mug-of-War competition, something Church started this year to fill the gap between the speak-off finals and the team presentations.
For this competition, Krista Bennett from SUNY Adirondack won first place, while Kevin Holloman from Saint Michael’s College and Alex Johnson from Norwich University placed second and third for their creative pitches for coffee mugs. After this, it was time for the teams to compete.
In the team creativity and innovation challenge, Clarkson University won first place with Saint Michael’s College receiving second, Norwich University receiving third and SUNY Adirondack receiving fourth.
During this challenge, the teams had to come up with ideas for Adirondack Grilling Pellets, owned by Colleen Lemza and her husband Bob, to help their business improve. The teams were given 20 minutes of information about the business and had approximately five hours to put together a presentation.
“The four to five hours we were given to come up with an entire new product and basically run a feasibility test was a hectic scramble,” said Adam Saccardi, part of the SUNY Plattsburgh team. “It was definitely a lot of trying to prioritize what we needed to get done.”
Throughout the presentations, teams pitched multiple ideas to the judges such as how to make the burlap sacks more cost efficient, new apple flavors for the grilling pellets including apple-hickory and incorporating more social media into the website.
“Being a history major, I’ve never really been exposed to a lot of this,” Saccardi said. “I thought it was a really interesting process to see how companies go about develop a new product and see all the hurdles they have to tackle.
“It (the competition) really enlightened me about what goes on in the entrepreneurship world.”
After five-minutes of presenting, the team went through a question and answer three-minute session with judges Lemza, Robert Parks, publisher of Press-Republican, and Daniel Alexander, president and publisher of Denton Publications. Lemza was impressed from the teams’ ideas.
“I thought there was a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm,” Lemza said. “Some of them (the teams) were spot on.
“A lot of them were really good.”
For fourth place, the judges had a hard time choosing between SUNY Adirondack and SUNY Plattsburgh. Lemza said the two schools were neck and neck, and this position took the longest to deliberate. However, Lemza said SUNY Adirondack’s points were more realistic, therefore, giving them the fourth place slot.
Even though team SUNY Plattsburgh consisting of Saccardi, Kevin Clayton, Jessica Rappaport and Veronica Marchello didn’t place, they all said they had a great time being part of this marathon and competing.
“I’m very glad we did it,” Rappaport said. “We did have a lot of fun.”
The purpose of the 2nd Annual Free Enterprise Marathon, according to the flier, was “to encourage students to become better informed about the importance of free enterprise and to encourage and reward students’ creativity and inventiveness,” something Church wanted to incorporated all throughout the marathon.
“The students worked really hard,” Church said. “They’re smart, they’re articulate and they really came up with some great ideas.
“At the end of the day, I hope they enjoyed their visit here.”