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Annual Business Plan Competition Showcases Belmont’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Ross Hill gives the business presentation for PictureBooth before earning the Outstanding Student Entrepreneur of the Year award and $5,000.

Belmont students know finding industry gaps and solutions to meet the market’s needs are the key to entrepreneurial success.

For Lexington, Ky. senior Ross Hill, that path meant finding an alternative for traditional picture booths, which he found were too cumbersome and at times took up to an hour to set up. His solution, PictureBooth earned his startup $5,000 and him the title of “Outstanding Student Entrepreneur of the Year” during the Belmont Student Business Plan Competition sponsored by Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC on March 15.

“PictureBooth was created out of necessity. It is a portable, shippable photo booth that creates social media for brands. It can be set up in five to 10 minutes and decreases cost by using social media to share pictures instead of printing,” said Hill, who already has gained Red Bull and Krispy Kreme as clients.

Although the competition prize winnings will enable Hill to manufacture 10 additional PictureBooths, Hill said it was Belmont’s entrepreneurship program that enabled his business to flourish.

“This competition has been a culmination of my last three and a half years at Belmont learning from all the entrepreneurship professors,” Hill said.  “I had to prepare a pitch to get investment for this business, and that helped narrow the focus and figure out the target market. Preparing for a business plan competition shows you the starting and finish line so that you know where you are going and not wandering around aimlessly.”

Jonathan Murrell, a senior from Frankin, Tenn., took second place and $2,000 for his J3B LLC business plan. The company he owns with his brother, James, grossed $1.5 million in revenue last year among its three websites. Founded in 2011, MyDormFood.com delivers custom-made care packages to college students, and students can choose the door-step deliveries over off-campus trips and expensive convenience stores. It operates out of a downtown warehouse along with candy store CandyGalaxy.com and toy retailer GizmoGorilla.com.

Hill hugs Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Jeff Cornwall, whom many students call their mentor.

“We chose care packages first because we were in school and wanted them,” Murrell said. “Candy and toys were opportunities that we saw no one else had taken, and we decided to pursue them.”

Murrell placed second during the 2012 competition for his CandyGalaxy.com business plan and first in the 2011 competition for MyDormFood.com.

Fabiana Mersan earned $1,000 for Reach Latinos. Other finalists were Amy Ashida for Ashida Creative; Clark Buckner for Buck Branding; Asher Morey and Riley Hutchins for Kiff Apparel; and Eric Guroff, Phil Haddad and Dave Servodidio for Jackal Creative. Numerous students submitted written plans and the top seven businesses were given the opportunity to present their ideas to a committee of judges consisting of Belmont entrepreneurship alumni and Nashville business leaders.

“I am really glad I don’t have to judge because I care about all of (them). Judges did an incredibly thoughtful job of evaluating all of the presentations and business plans,” said Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Jeff Cornwall.

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