Two Hudson Valley Teams Successful in Entrepreneurship, Business Plan Competitions

April 19, 2023

Two student teams from Hudson Valley Community College participated in the regional New York State Business Plan Competition at the University at Albany on April 1, and one will be moving on to the state finals at Syracuse University later this month.

The statewide, intercollegiate competition is divided into a half dozen tracks where students create a business idea and materials to support their concept and then pitch their idea to a panel of judges.

Students at the regional New York State Business Plan Competition
Hudson Valley Entrepreneurship student Marlen Martinez, right, and her daughter, Andy, an MBA student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the regional NYS Business Plan competition.

First-year Hudson Valley Entrepreneurship student Marlen Martinez and her daughter, Andrea (Andy) Muniz Martinez, an MBA student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, competed in the Health and Wellbeing track with their business, Ensure Records, a centralized hub for health records that’s designed for parents of special needs children.

The idea for Ensure Records is close to both women’s hearts. Marlen’s daughter and Andy’s sister, Natalie, has special needs, and over the years they have struggled with the amount of record-keeping needed for Natalie’s appointments. When the family decided to move from Arizona to New York, the paperwork to get Natalie set-up with new doctors and therapists, was daunting. Wouldn’t a dedicated software system that can help track and archive appointments, tests and other records, they thought, be a benefit to all families with these needs?

“This is an idea we’ve talked about for years,” Andy said. “You don’t understand the stress of making sure your child has what they need until you go through it yourself, and that’s why we think there’s not any other businesses addressing this pain point right now, and why we think we could make this business successful, because we have that experience as a family.”

Marlen credits her Intro to Entrepreneurship teacher, Associate Professor Jodi Mather, with planting the seed for this foray into product development and for entering the business plan competition.

“My legs were shaking,” Marlen said with a laugh, when asked about getting up in front of the judges. “But Professor Mather was encouraging and telling me I can do it and that it was a great learning experience. That’s what I’m taking out of all of this. I’m learning and making connections.”

Although the pair will not be moving on to the NYS Business Plan state final competition, their product pitch has already found success in several other collegiate entrepreneurship competitions. Marlen and Andy’s idea pitch won the RPI ESHIP Problem Pitch Competition in January and tied for first place in the RPI Change The World Challenge.

“It makes me so happy that we’re able work on this together,” said Andy. “A lot will depend on whether or not we can get funding to move this product forward, but with everything mom’s learning in the classroom and the experience with these competitions, it’s been a great learning experience.”

Students at the regional NYS Business Plan competition
Hudson Valley students, from right, Lucas Abate, Ehdoh Kyi, Sean Sampler and Omar Cunningham, made up the team presenting Flightworks Software at the NYS Business Plan competition. They were joined by fellow student Zaid Shehzad, left.

The second HVCC team at the regional NYS Business Plan competition included Engineering Science student Lucas Abate, along with Business Administration majors Sean Sampler, Omar Cunningham and Ehdoh Kyi, who presented their business, FlightWorks Software, an app designed for glider clubs. FlightWorks Software placed second in the Safety, Power and Mobility track and will advance to the state competition at Syracuse University on April 27.

Sean said the group became friends as members of the college’s Entrepreneurs Club, and when a guest speaker at one of the club meetings outlined the competition, they decided to work on an entry as a team. “One of our goals for the club was to attend and perform well at this competition. We each had our own individual ideas to pitch, but Lucas’ idea, we decided, was a bit further along so we went with that. He is very active in a local glider club but he noticed that their technology is stuck in the 1970s.”

The idea for the Flightworks Software app is to provide the more than 100 glider clubs in the United States with a user-friendly, digital way to track and archive the data that many currently manage by hand. Tracking times of flights, gasoline used for the tow plane, membership records – the app could serve as an all-in-one system that also could be expanded upon for use by other flight-based clubs, paragliding or skydiving clubs, for example, Sean said.

Sean said the group met regularly throughout the semester to develop and refine their pitch and when they got to the regional competition, each team member shared the pitching duties. “We went into this competition without any expectation that we would win it but really just for the experience, and it was a valuable learning experience. At the same time, we worked hard on this and we’re obviously happy to continue at the state competition.”

The New York Business Plan Competition features regional competitions in New York’s ten Regional Economic Development Council zones – Capital Region, Central New York, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City and Long Island.

“Both groups did a fantastic job representing the college,” Professor Mather said. “Ensure Records did not advance, but their track had the largest number of competitors, all of whom were amazing. At the RPI Change the World Challenge a few weeks ago, Ensure Records actually beat the team that won the entire regional NYS Business Plan competition.”

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