Articles

Undergraduate-owned business wins $15,000

Finance major wins Fintech Business Plan Competition

Casey Henry

Tampa, FL (April 5, 2013) — If you don't think competitive paintball sounds like a lucrative, innovative business proposition, think again.

South Tampa Paintball LLC is the latest business venture to win the Center for Entrepreneurship's Fintech Business Plan Competition on Friday, which is in its fifth year of awarding seed startup money to student-owned businesses.

Undergraduate finance major Casey Henry wowed the judging panel of eight local entrepreneurs and businesspeople with her rapid-fire, intensely researched 10-minute presentation.

"Paintball changed my life. It got me to where I am today," Henry told the judges during her pitch. When they laughed, she quickly added, "no, really," and went on to explain the business opportunities that she envisioned.

Competing against teams made up of graduate students in various disciplines as well as professional lawyers and engineers, Henry bested six other teams to win the $15,000 prize. Her idea, a sport field in South Tampa, would cater to tournament paintball teams as well as recreational paintball players.

The competition, which is sponsored by electronic liquor payment company Fintech, has awarded varied companies over the years with money prizes and other local firms providing in-kind services such as accounting and legal advice. The competition requires that the participating companies have at least one USF student in the ownership group and that the companies be legal entities in the state of Florida. Twenty five teams entered the competition, with seven selected to present before the judges.

Casey Henry presenting at the competition

Henry, who has competed on tournament paintball teams herself, was able to illustrate that her business concept wouldn't be threatened by competition or economic dips and would have a place in the Tampa market. The only one other tournament paintball field in the area is located in Lakeland.

"The best presentation of anybody today," Fintech CEO and serial entrepreneur Scott Riley told Henry, after acknowledging that he originally was skeptical of her concept. "You're right on, you've got everything buttoned down."

Honorable mentions went to ShipSharps, a startup created to dispose of biomedical waste in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner, and 1 Apple Grocery, an already up-and-running grocery in Sulphur Springs that is working to end food deserts by catering to the low-income population.

The judges had encouraging words for the teams that didn't come in first place. Riley said he expected to see many of the competitors succeed in launching their businesses. During the presentations, he told the 1 Apple team members they had exceeded his expectations for a grocery store business plan.

"You've made it simple," he said. "Genius is in simplicity."

The USF Center for Entrepreneurship has hosted the competition for the past five years, and is part of the USF Muma College of Business, in collaboration with the USF College of Engineering, the Morsani College of Medicine, and the Patel School of Global Sustainability. Its graduate program is the 11th ranked program in the nation, creating an interdisciplinary education for its students.