Wesleyan students take home social enterprise prizes in the CT Business Plan Competition

Left to right: Babila Fomuteh ’21, Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Ray Peters ’18, Leslie Maldonado ’19, Aaron Stryker ’19, Rafael Goldstein ’21, Tyler Lederer-Plaskett ’21

On April 26, 2019, seven Wesleyan students competed in the semi-annual CT Business Plan Competition hosted by The Entrepreneurship Foundation at Gateway College in New Haven. The event was sponsored by CTNext’s Higher Education Initiative and numerous other partners.

In total, more than 250 students, faculty, investors, and entrepreneurs participated. Sixty-two students teams from 15 colleges and universities competed for more than $30,000 in cash awards, plus $10,000 in in-kind startup services. This was the largest collegiate business competition in the state to date.

Applicants were evaluated on several factors including the problem they were addressing, their product/service, the market, their budget and financial projections, and the strength of their leadership team. Although this is called a “business plan competition,” students were not just pitching new companies; they were pitching their ideas for addressing real-world problems with products or services that will meet user needs and have a financially-sustainable future, so they can grow and scale.   

Three Wesleyan-connected ventures took home prizes in the social enterprise category:

  • Vital Financial, founded by Babila Fomuteh ‘21, seeks to tackle the wealth gap in the United States by teaching financial literacy to high school students
  • YAF Ghana Consult, a new initiative of the Young Achievers foundation founded by Ferdinand Quayson ‘20, provides inexpensive test prep and college counseling for low-income families in northern Ghana
  • Dharma Gates, founded by Aaron Stryker ‘19, is a Buddhist monastic gap semester program that prepares young people to be compassionate leaders and offers an affordable alternative to traditional gap year programs.

Ferdinand Quayson explains how YAF Ghana Consult will provide free or low-cost test prep and college counseling to students in northern Ghana

Participants report that the application process was useful, not only as a way to secure funding,

Leslie Maldonado talks about Retrain to Regain, an educational program that empowers students to develop social-emotional skills despite having experienced trauma in their lives

but also as a way to learn. Babila Fomuteh noted, “[This] was certainly a memorable experience. I was at first hesitant putting myself out there, but in doing so, I gained a lot of feedback and new insights that definitely allowed me to grow as a person and a venture. Now, I’m looking for the next one to attend.”

Past CT Business Plan Competition winners from Wesleyan include Inayah Bashir ‘20 for her mental wellness program, and Nate Taylor ‘18 for his non-verbal communication consulting service.

Mike Roer, founder of The Entrepreneurship Foundation, says he aims to double the size of the CT Business Plan Competition next year. The fall 2019 finals will take place on December 6 (applications due November 22). The Entrepreneurship Foundation will also host an Innovation Challenge Weekend for entrepreneurial-minded students from all academic disciplines on October 18-19. For more information on these and other programs, visit http://www.entrepreneurshipfoundation.org/competition.html.