White Elephant Post comes out ahead of the herd

After eight months, six finalists present their business pitches with one to be crowned winner.


Brent and Susan Hedrick

Alondra Urizar/THE CHIMES

Alondra Urizar, Writer

Members of White Elephant Post, a business centered around allowing students to sell their school materials or books, won first place in the Crowell School of Business’ first startup competition, on Friday, April 8.

The winners

Senior computer science major Matthew Lemieux, senior business major Kayla Sutherland and alumni Sean Harrington won $15,000 in cash, a $10,000 legal services startup package from Brown & Streza, LLP and an accounting services startup package from Nienow & Tierney LLP.

“The idea came in 2014 and it was something that, it was just a thought like why is textbook buying so difficult and I was looking into and I felt nervous and hesitant to proceed with the idea but then when the start up competition was announced…I remember how much I loved this one idea which was really about connecting the students for the books,” Sutherland said.

Narrowed down from 29 contestants in fall 2015, a total of six finalists presented in front of four judges: Ronnie Andrews, founder of the Bethesda Group; Ruth Lopez Novodor, CEO of Beverly Oncology and Imaging Medical Group, Inc.; Wes Wasson, CEO and co-founder of DreamStart Labs; and Robert Yi, Ten Talents Partners managing partner.

“I love engaging with students and seeing what they come up with so that part has been a lot of fun. Clearly all the teams did a great job of developing business plans and making presentations and really expressing their passion,” Yi said.

Mapping out next steps

Luminosity, Worship Better, The Illuminate Collective, Lightspeed Imaging and House Account Inc. were the five other competing teams – Worship Better won second place and House Account Inc. won third. The former received $7,500 and the latter, $5,000 and both received complimentary consultation with Brown & Streza, LLP and Nienow & Tierney LLP.

Every hour, each team presented their business idea to the four judges. Once judges were left to deliberate on teams, audience members watched as dean of Crowell School of Business Gary Lindblad interviewed five special guests: Russell Bjorkman, venture partner and general counsel of Sovereign’s Capital; Eden Chen, co-founder of Fishermen Labs; Jessica Rey, founder and CEO of Rey Swimwear; Larry Stofko, executive vice president of The Innovation Institute; and Grant Van Cleve, president of the Tech Coast Angels.

President Barry Corey joined the audience and spoke during lunch provided by Chick-fil-A before the final pitches were presented.

For now, White Elephant Post plans on continuing to meet and consult to see what their future steps should be.

“I think for next year we were talking, we’re thinking of meeting with people like [Yi], the judges and kind of understanding what we should do next and Matt’s program isn’t a startup program that we need to do now so all of a sudden we’re in a realm we don’t understand fully so we’ll be mapping out our next steps,” Harrington said.

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