Student Entrepreneurs Develop Business Plan Concepts for Cornell Competition

Feb 27, 2015

Contact:  Kristen Ciferri, 607.255.0179,

Student Entrepreneurs Develop Business Plan Concepts for Cornell Competition

Ithaca, NY, February 27, 2015 – Every year, the Hospitality Business Plan Competition gives teams of Cornell University students the opportunity to develop business concepts and enter them in a competition. The top three teams receive cash prizes ($15,000, $5,000, and $2,500) to help fund and actually launch their businesses.

The competition is sponsored by the Sun family—Stanley Sun '00 and his parents Dennis and Betty Sun—and the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA).

This year's competition has progressed in stages throughout the 2014-2015 academic year. Currently, the ten semifinalists have submitted their full business plans, and five finalists will be chosen to make final presentations to the panel of judges on March 21, during Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), where the winners will then be announced.

(HEC is an annual weekend-long educational conference and an SHA tradition. It takes place on the Cornell University campus and is run by the students for hospitality industry leaders. The purpose is to allow students to practice skills they have learned in the classroom and showcase their talents to industry professionals. This year marks the 90th annual HEC.)

Undergraduate and graduate students from throughout Cornell are eligible to compete, although at least half the members of each team must be SHA students, who may hail from either the Bachelor of Science in Hotel Administration or Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) program.

For the purpose of this competition, the "hospitality" component of "hospitality business" is construed quite broadly and includes businesses providing support services to the hospitality industry (e.g., businesses that provide software and hardware to restaurant and lodging businesses).

The competition provides an experiential learning opportunity for rising entrepreneurs looking to make their mark on the hospitality industry, with the added benefit of cash prizes to help winning teams get their concepts off the ground.

The competition is also a unique opportunity for sponsors to make contributions that go directly to students. Many SHA students go on to be hospitality industry leaders, and some are established entrepreneurs before they even matriculate, making this sponsorship a clear investment in the future of the industry. Several sponsorship tiers are available.

This year's sponsors:
•    The Sun family (Stanley Sun '00 and his parents Dennis and Betty Sun), originating sponsor
•    Steve Thomson '82, title sponsor
•    Marriott Hotels, platinum sponsor
•    Preferred Hotel Group, platinum sponsor
•    Sweet Street Desserts, platinum sponsor
•    Avendra, gold sponsor
•    Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, gold sponsor

This year's semifinalist teams:
•    A Kneaded Hand (a non-profit training restaurant that will hire, train, and assist in job placement for young victims of food insecurity and unemployment): Dana Beninati, MMH '15; Niharika Thakwani, MMH '15
•    Avinue (interactive, technology-enhanced, small-space limited-food-service wine bar designed for wine-savvy U.S. west coast markets): Salim Bure '15; Alyssa Pizzurro '15
•    BrewMe (social network- and location-based mobile app for buying someone a drink, either an existing friend or a potential new acquaintance): Tucker Iida '16; Aigul Jumabayeva '16; Yuni Gao, MPS '16
•    Modern Market (network of direct-to-consumer commissaries offering a subscription service that delivers fresh prepared gourmet meal components): Christina Elliott, MMH '15
•    Oh Momma! Center (membership-based fitness, wellness, and community-space with services addressing both the needs and the schedules of working mothers): Maggie Lo, MMH '15; Regine Desroches, MMH '15; Ashton Liu, MMH '15; Hirman Ahmad, MMH '15
•    OnRed Partners (new brand of U.S. hotel-hostels that combine social component of hostels with high-end design): Guy Cook '15; Andrew Nesbitt, MBA '16
•    RedHead Wine (red wine with non-traditional production methods resulting in reduced seasonal  supply limitations): Zach Berle '15; Gavin Hilder '17; Marisa Sergi, CALS '15; Elizabeth Shvidky, AEM '16
•    Signum Technologies (data/technology-driven service to help independent restaurants optimize processes and create customer loyalty): Patrick Tan '16; Andy Syang '16; Eric Morris, ENGR '16
•    The Wasted Waffle (food truck offering customizable waffles and pancakes modeled on dispense-it-yourself frozen yogurt shops): Micah Green '18; Kevin Parsons '18
•    Yuba (aggregate delivery network, online ordering, and performance evaluation hub designed for independent restaurants initially in Amman, Jordan): Basel Bataineh '17; Humale Khane, ENGR '15
For more information on the Hospitality Business Plan Competition broadly, visit

For more information on this year's competition, visit

About The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship
Founded in 2006 with a generous gift from Leland Pillsbury '69 and his wife, Mary Pillsbury, the Pillsbury Institute provides support for seasoned faculty and proven entrepreneurs to help students envision their dreams, engage with others, and execute with excellence. The institute guides students in the study of entrepreneurship and innovation, connects them with successful hospitality entrepreneurs and innovators, and gives them practical experience to help them link classroom theory to real-world practice. The Pillsbury Institute is also a source of information about forming new hospitality businesses, managing small and family-run businesses, franchising, corporate venturing, new venture funding, and innovation.