TAMPA – Enterprising students interested in entrepreneurship have a unique opportunity to run their own kiosk food vendor business and earn the top $75,000 cash prize in a new pilot sales competition launching this month. The runner-up prize is $25,000.
The HUSTLE business competition is a joint initiative between the University of South Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and Chessler Holdings. Student teams will run a real-world start-up venture using autonomous and robotic food production kiosks.
Chessler Holdings, a Sarasota-based family investment firm that owns about 20 portfolio companies in industries ranging from telematics to entertainment, committed $600,000 for the initiative and will work with the center and the Muma College of Business to officially announce HUSTLE at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the college's atrium on the Tampa campus. Applications are open now.
HUSTLE stands for Helping Undergraduate Students Tackle Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
The competition was to begin last fall but was postponed due to COVID-19 and negotiations related to kiosk locations. The college-oriented business competition is designed to educate students in entrepreneurship through the real-world experience of operating a start-up venture.
Students will form four- to five-member teams and compete for a chance to be one of the top two teams that will sell food through the vending kiosks. Chessler Holdings will give the final two teams $250,000 each to operate a business using Automated Retail Technologies (ART), one of Chessler Holdings’ portfolio companies.
ART is the first autonomous, oven-baked food vendor, JustBaked. Each team will initially use the $250,000 investment to buy at least 10 ART kiosks and strategically place them off-campus in the surrounding community.
Students will secure the locations, as well as manage, restock, and operate the vending machines to run the business. Possible locations could be hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, or strip malls.
HUSTLE participants will work a minimum of 15 hours a week and could earn up to 20 percent of all the profit made from the kiosks during the program. To keep the business operating smoothly, each team will meet weekly with mentors and will attend monthly board meetings, reporting their business status to a Chessler Holdings Board of Directors.
The ultimate goal for each of the teams is to run the most profitable business, resulting in a $75,000 cash prize to the winning team and a $25,000 cash prize to the second place team. The program is open to juniors and seniors from all majors at the Muma College of Business. Graduate students can also be part of a team.
“This unique program has several benefits,” said Dirk Libaers, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in the Muma College of Business. “Students learn how to work on a team, formulate a business plan and execute that plan. They also learn how to make strategic and tactical decisions under the guidance of mentors, and they apply what they have learned in their coursework in a real-world setting.”
Libaers described the unique experience as an “extreme form of experiential learning” because students will be running a company, working with real money, responding to customers, and be accountable to the board of directors and key stakeholders.
David Chessler, the founder of Chessler Holdings, recognizes the potential of college students who are hungry for success, and he wants to give them an opportunity that he never had.
“At Chessler Holdings we are inspired by these young entrepreneurs,” said Chessler. “Their passion and energy are irresistible, and we can’t wait to help them thrive. What we hope to achieve with this program is introducing real-life experiences to young entrepreneurs through interactions with the real business world.”
“We want to show young students what it’s like to be in the boardroom, what it’s like to operate a real company, and what it’s like to take profits and losses in a real business,” he said.
An announcement of the program will take place at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Muma College of Business atrium. Applications are open now and close on Oct. 16. In late October, several teams will present their pitches to a board of judges. The two winning teams will be selected and embark on their business journey. The head-to-head competition is slated to begin in January with the program ending in late April.