Three students developing a plan to help Maine farmers connect with consumers online were awarded $10,000 as winners of the first annual Colby Entrepreneurial Alliance Business Competition April 8.
My Fresh Company, pitched by entrepreneurs Marcus Josefsson ’13, Danny Garin ’13, and Noah VanValkenburg ’13, landed the largest grant in the contest among start-up business proposals. A proposal by Benjamin Weinberger ’11 to launch a nonprofit business, Our Homegrown Collaborative, was awarded $5,000. Weinberger’s project aims to teach inner-city high school students how to establish and maintain vegetable gardens in urban spaces in Chicago.
The four Colby students were winners in a competition that drew nine student teams pitching their ideas to a panel of business-savvy alumni. The student entrepreneurs ranged from sophomores to seniors, economics to classics majors, environmentalists to real estate brokers.
With deans, faculty members, students, friends, and family looking on, they did their best to sell their plans to the panel, which included Joseph Boulos ’68, Deborah Wathen Finn ’74, William Goldfarb ’68, Mark Johnson ’96, Robert Ryan ’81, and Seth Lawry, a Colby trustee.
The money, contributed by private donors, was awarded as grants to be used for any business-related start-up expenses. Many of the competitors had been working on their plans for years.
My Fresh Company LLC hopes to connects farmers across Maine with consumers through the website myfreshmaine.com. Johnson commended the three sophomores on their project, calling it unique and perfect for Maine, adding that he thought the business model was “scalable to markets in many different states.”
It is a great idea,” Johnson said.
The grant moved the project from the drawing board to reality. “I’m even more excited about our idea now that we have the confidence of other successful Colby entrepreneurs,” Garin said.
Weinberger presented as the sole founder of Homegrown, which Career Center Director Roger Woolsey characterized as social entrepreneurism. After a year of training with Weinberger, Chicago students will have the skills to both charge for their gardens and train other students. After the initial costs of supplies, the students will essentially run the company themselves, he said.
Despite Weinberger’s substantial overhead, the judges chose to invest in his business because, Johnson said, “This is the kind of guy that will get things done.” Weinberger said he plans to do just that-in part by using the grant to attract other investors.