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SUNY Oswego’s Launch It 2021 honors, supports student entrepreneurs | Education

OSWEGO – SUNY Oswego’s annual Launch It competition that sparks entrepreneurship and alumni connections among students, chose its 2021 winners on November 12.

The idea for the winning concept — the Hush Bracelet, created by marketing firm Molly Bergen and financier pioneer Robyn Kilts, of the Phi Sigma Sigma sisters and members of the American College Marketing Association’s chapter — began on a September night when Bergen was walking home alone and was struck by a stranger.

“A man shouted from his balcony and said, ‘Maybe if you catch up with the rest of the college students, you’ll be safe,'” Bergin said of that night on Bridge Street in Oswego. Once I got into the back streets, I started running and I think there should be a safer way to let people know that you feel in danger but it’s not always an immediate danger.”

Entering her idea for Launch It, Bergen asked Keelts to take her on the project, who fully agreed with the concept’s need.

“When Molly came up with the idea to me, I loved it, because I feel exactly the same way,” said Kelts. “I have a keychain on a ring. If you pull it on, it will sound an alarm, but if no one is there, nothing will happen. When she told me her idea, all I thought was, ‘That’s genius!'”

The Hush bracelet has two main technical concepts, the application and GPS signals inside the bracelet. Bergen and Kielts said they had their tech friends troubleshoot technological aspects of their design to make sure what they envisioned was accurate and doable in production.

“It will be connected to an app and is the way you will be able to contact people in the first place. If you push the bracelet once, it informs friends and family that you feel in danger, but not necessarily to be picked up at that moment,” Bergin said. “The second you hit it, it starts tracking your location while still notifying friends and family. And then the third time you hit it, it notifies 911 and sends your location to you.”

The app will also allow users to create and activate different profiles containing different contacts depending on your location. The example given by Bergen and Kelts was a “school profile” and a “home profile” for college students.

Designed to be elegant and unpretentious, the Hush band mirrors designs like the FitBit or Apple Watch so it doesn’t attract attention in an attack or emergency situation.

“Suppose you have a diamond bracelet on your hand, the person trying to rob you will take that,” said Kelts. Bergen and Kelts also noted that when attacks or thefts occur, your wallet and phone are more likely to be stolen or hidden, and therefore, individuals with a Hush bracelet will still have a way to call for emergency help without notifying the assailants.

Although the concept of their idea was geared towards women, the Hush bracelet could be just about anyone. “There was a lot of technical logistics behind it, but the concept itself was really attractive to all the judges,” said Erin Scruton, associate dean of the School of Business, which is hosting the competition. “It is not only for young women, but it can be useful for elderly walkers or for children. It was a really attractive and really innovative idea.”

Bergen and Kelts also said that the Hush bracelet can also help anyone involved in domestic violence who needs a discreet way to seek help.

For first place in the 2021 Launch It competition, Kilts and Bergin received $2,500, sponsored by Riverwalk. Kitts and Bergin plan to use their winnings to patent the Hush Bracelet and enter the New York State Business Plan 2022 competition.

This year, the launch event was a mixed event involving judges, students, faculty, alumni, and guests in person at Rich Hall and through virtually Zoom. However, one thing remained constant – the entrepreneurial spirit and participation of enthusiastic graduates.

“We have a history of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem here at SUNY Oswego,” said Scruton, who is a lead organizer and also directs the college’s MBA programs. “SUNY Oswego’s launch is unique in that we have extensive involvement from our alumni. We provide training for alumni in idea development, and we provide alumni-one-on-one guidance for final idea development and presentation. As far as I know, no schools have this level of alumni involvement” .

This year, more than 30 alumni provided coaching and mentorship to students participating in the Launch It program. Scruton and event organizers work alongside the Office of Alumni and Development to bring together alumni from all walks of life, graduate degree programs and business ventures for participation.

“We have everyone from freelancers running their own businesses to those of IBM companies in the world. It’s a huge group of graduates with experience in all industries,” Scruton said. “They are important graduates who come from all over the country.”

Scruton notes that 1984 graduate Mark Marano, CEO of Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. In North Carolina, he went so far as to fly to Oswego to dine with the finalists. “It’s fun working with alumni. The students’ ideas, energy and creativity are really full of energy,” Scruton said.

The Launch It Finals was the culmination of a series of events that began in October. In all, 31 students from all academic disciplines gave one-minute business idea presentations and submitted two-minute business introduction videos. These were evaluated by the faculty and alumni who guided them throughout the process. The online community via the Engage platform provides ongoing communications and advice to student participants.

Personal competition judges include Ed Alberts, an Oswego MBA graduate and founder of Wired and Riverwalk; 2006 Alumna Sarah Mastrangelo; Kevin McMahon, 1978 graduate and Chairman and CEO of Edwards & Kelcey; Plus online jury are Lisa Woodka, of Sherwin Williams, and 2007 alumnus Mike Davis.

On November 12 at Rich Hall, the semi-final round began with 16 teams vying for a place in the finals. The competition was then narrowed down to the eight best finalists who presented their work idea through a five-minute video presentation, followed by answering the judges’ questions. Judges scored each team electronically and confidentially using a six-factor assessment form, including vision and story; resource identification; display clarity; Determine the target market.

“How well do you define the problem you are trying to solve?” Scruton said, “Is this something that no one else has thought of? Or, is there a problem you can solve better than anyone else.”

In the end, the 16 teams were narrowed down to the top three based on the rating model. In addition to Kilts and Bergin winning first prize, senior Sa’Cora Sneed took home a $1,500 runner-up prize sponsored by Sherwin Williams with their show for Accustom; Seniors Ianya Armstrong and Leah Clynes took home the $1,000 Wegmans-sponsored third-place prize with their show Style Me.

In addition, the remaining 12 teams that made it to the round of 16 were awarded prizes of $200.

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