BizFest jumpstarts students' entrepreneurial know how
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
(956) 665-7995
Posted: 08/31/2012
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Aranza Garza wants to start a business that provides a quick, tasty and affordable cup of coffee while also benefitting the environment.

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Pictured left to right are the top three BizFest business plan winners Aranza Garza, Tyler Scott and Kelsie Alvarado and the three special category winners Sara Bennack (Most Innovative), Katherine de la Rosa (Highest Potential), and Midyana Mireles (Most Entrepreneurial). Nearly 20 Rio Grande Valley high school students participated in the intensive three-day training program presented by UTPA faculty Aug. 17-19 to promote entrepreneurship and leadership skills. BizFest is sponsored by the United States Hispanic Chamber and Commerce (USHCC) and the six recognized students will travel to the USHCC national convention and BizFest competition held in Los Angeles, Calif. in September.
"My business - 'Coffee Seed' - is the 'Red Box' of coffee," said the Economedes High School senior. "It's a small compact vending machine ... however you want your coffee, it mixes it for you at an inexpensive price, no more than $2.50 for a 24-ounce cup. It will be quicker than standing in line at Starbucks or the gas station."

Besides being convenient and inexpensive, the coffee's biodegradable cup would have a non-toxic seed embedded in the cup's bottom that could be planted or used as a plant pot.

"A tree or flower will grow depending where you are. Here in the Valley it would probably be a palm tree embedded in the cup," Garza said. "The coffee drinker can also help out the environment by growing trees and balancing out the carbon footprint."

Her idea for "Coffee Seed" is one of many innovative and viable concepts for businesses put forth by area high school students at BizFest, a free leadership and entrepreneurial training program taught by faculty from the College of Business Administration at The University of Texas-Pan American and sponsored by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Foundation. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also collaborated in the promotion of BizFest to Valley students.

Garza's plan was among the top three judged by a four-member panel of business faculty and UTPA staff experts on entrepreneurship and business start-ups to advance to an all-expenses-paid trip to the USHCC's 33rd Annual National Convention and Expo Sept. 16-18 in Los Angeles, Calif. Each student also won an iPad. The other top business plan winners were Tyler Scott, a senior at BETA for "Froyo," a frozen yogurt trailer set in Austin, Texas, and Kelsie Alvarado, a freshman at San Isidro High School, for "Café de Kelsie," a healthy choices food truck that would sell pre-prepared sandwiches outside contracted area high schools.

Special category winners, who will also attend the national convention, were Sara Bennack, Lyford High School, "University Art Consignment Studio," Most Innovative; Katherine de la Rosa, BETA High School, "Computer Projectors Corporation," Highest Potential; and Midyana Mireles, "Texas Students United," Most Entrepreneurial.

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UTPA Vice President for University Advancement Veronica Gonzales talked to BizFest participants during the three-day program held Aug. 17-19 at the University to train high school students on entreprenuership and leadership skills.
During the BizFest training and competition held Aug. 17-19 at the University, nearly 20 area students who participated in the program were able to learn how to establish entrepreneurial and leadership goals, create a business plan, network in business environments and make public presentations.

Dr. John Sargent, UTPA professor of management, who oversees the BizFest training with Dr. Sibin Wu, associate professor of management, said the program offers several benefits to its participants.

"BizFest exposes students to the University and provides them a structured way to think about how to pursue opportunities and practice in how to frame ideas and present those ideas to others," he said. "Active learning environments like BizFest are much better ways to learn about the pursuit of opportunity compared to reading about it in a book or sitting through a lecture."

Guest speakers for BizFest included Kial Gramley, vice president of Marketing and Business Development for FibeRio Technology Corporation, who talked to the students about marketing plan development, and Veronica Gonzales, UTPA vice president for University Advancement, who gave some advice on making career and business choices and how to improve their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

"An entrepreneur is a person who takes a chance on an idea or a product; they are people who say 'I can do this.' You have to take chances. You have to take opportunities when they come to you. The worst thing that can happen is that you might fail. So what? You pick yourself up and go on," she said. "Give yourself confidence; with confidence, you can do a whole lot."

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Katherine de la Rosa, a student at BETA High School, is pictured at the BizFest competition finals Aug. 19 presenting her business plan for "Computer Projectors Corporation."
In its third year, BizFest training culminates in the creation of a business plan by each participant and its presentation to a panel of judges. Each plan must include the business name and logo, its product(s) and/or service(s), its marketing strategies, a financial plan including information on revenue, cost and profit, identification of its competitors, and its management structure. Competitors are given seven minutes to present their plan and then must answer judges' questions in semi-finalist and finalist stages.

Judge Jackie Michel, UTPA director of Innovation and Intellectual Property, said she was impressed with the students' creativity and encouraged to see what the future can be based on the ideas they presented.

"I think it is critical to our future to be able to engage students in more of these types of opportunities and I appreciate the Hispanic Chamber in being willing to invest in this kind of opportunity for high school students in the Rio Grande Valley," Michel said.

Garza, who won second place and a $2,000 scholarship at the national BizFest competition last year with her business plan for "Home Cookin'," a healthy meal delivery service, wants to be a neurologist with her own practice. She said the skills she has learned at BizFest will help her in overseeing her own doctor's office one day.

"I absolutely love business. It is one of my passions besides medicine. This is a great program to give you a jump start in knowing what needs to be in a business plan, to get you exposed to the business world and what qualifications you need to be successful. And the fact that it is free, you can't pass it up," she said.

Go to the USHCC Foundation's website to learn more about BizFest. To learn more about the business programs offered at UTPA, go to the College of Business Administration website.