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Clarkson names Young Entrepreneur, Young Innovator award winners

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POTSDAM - Clarkson University’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship and Shipley Center for Innovation have named their 2013 Young Entrepreneurs and Innovators Program winners.

Through this unique business plan competition, current and prospective students competed for a chance to exchange equity in their company for tuition at Clarkson. Five semi-finalists presented their existing business plans and commercialization opportunities to a panel of experts in the competition, which concluded earlier this semester.

Clarkson is breaking new ground through this program to make higher education accessible to enterprising students, while also giving them a great return value.

Evan Jennings, a home-schooled high school student from Lowville, was named the winner of the Young Entrepreneurs Award.

Honeoye Falls-Lima High School student Briar Bonadonna of Honeoye Falls was named the winner of the Young Innovators Award.

Both students have been offered the opportunity to attend Clarkson without payment of tuition, through a combination of merit-based financial aid and a purchase by Clarkson of 10 percent equity in their firm at fair market value.

Jennings won the Young Entrepreneurs Award for his business the E3cubestore Rubik’s Cube and Puzzle Shop. The business is an e-commerce site that sells puzzle cubes designed for speed solving and competition. He will begin as a freshman at Clarkson in the fall.

“Recognizing an opportunity in the puzzle cube market, Evan started E3Cube store when he was just15 years old,” said Erin Draper, director of operations of the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship. “He embodies the traits we look for in a young entrepreneur - passion, strategic thinking and a deep understanding of his market. We were impressed by his ambition and his entrepreneurial achievements to date and are looking forward to helping him realize even greater potential as part of the Young Entrepreneurs Program.”

Bonadonna was named the winner of the Young Innovators Award for her business idea, the PodBottle. She has a provisional patent on the innovation, which is a bottle that can store your keys, phone, etc. She will begin as a freshman at Clarkson in the fall.

“Briar Bonadonna brings an enthusiasm and passion for her technology and the process of commercialization to the Young Innovator’s Program,” according to Matt Draper, deputy director of the Shipley Center for Innovation.

“Her professionalism and preparation set her apart in the competition and her innovation strikes at an everyday market need with tremendous potential for growth. We are excited to start working with Briar and are confident that her energy and vision will inspire others on campus to pursue their innovations.”

The winners will receive specialized guidance and support from faculty and alumni mentors. They will also keep their businesses going in Clarkson business incubator office space, while pursuing their undergraduate degrees.

Prior to the competition, aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators submitted applications that included a completed business plan, a 90-second video and a brief description of their business. During the competition, the five finalists had 15 minutes to pitch their idea and 15 minutes of questions from the panel.

The Young Entrepreneurs Award Program was established in 2010. The innovative program was featured in Money Magazine’s September 2011 issue as a strategy for paying for college.

Clarkson’s first award winner, Matthew S. Turcotte, was recently selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration Syracuse District Office as the winner of the 2013 SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Turcotte, founder and president of North Shore Solutions, was chosen for the award based on his company’s increase in sales and profits and his demonstrated long-term potential as a successful business owner. Turcotte has grown his business tremendously during his time at Clarkson, increasing revenues to six figures, while maintaining a Presidential Scholar grade-point average.

The competition is aligned with the educational mission of Clarkson, which has a long-standing tradition of creating entrepreneurially minded business leaders who understand how to develop a successful business, harness innovative technologies and build opportunities for commercialization in the marketplace.

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