Innovation and collaboration blossom during The Rowan Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s 2023 Idea Challenge

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First place winners Bobica Bars accept their first place check for $4K. - Staff Writer / Paige Britt

The Rowan Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Idea Challenge on Dec. 1, where 45 teams presented their products to judges, investors, and fellow students. Partnered with the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund and sponsored by the Rohrer College of Business, the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, and the College of Science and Mathematics, the event awarded $4,000 in non-equity seed funding to the team voted by the judges. 

Dr. Michael Dominik, professor from the Rowan School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and one of the contributing professors of the event, explained the process of working with students in preparation for the Idea Challenge. 

“The faculty members help the students in the course starting in September identify problems, needs, and wants in the world that they think are worthy of creating innovative solutions for. And so today is the manifestation, the identification of opportunities, we refer to it as opportunity identification and opportunity recognition. And so the students work with the professors, me being one of them. And they flush out the notion of who would be their customers, identify their markets, they create prototypes, early stage versions of their service, maybe it’s an app, or a website, or their products,” Dr. Dominik said. 

While the Idea Challenge focuses on entrepreneurship and business, students, and faculty from all colleges are encouraged to participate. Assistant Director of the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Jessica Vattima explained the judging process. 

“So because we focus on interdisciplinary collaboration for the Idea Challenge, we actually invite all faculty across Rowan to come in and judge. A lot of the people that you see here are judging from across campus from business, engineering, the arts, education, so it’s really great that we can bring so many disciplines together in one, and focus on entrepreneurship,” Vattima said. 

The businesses represented showed a wide range of products and services, from apps to locate thrift stores, websites to find local live music, monthly subscription services, and health-minded food products. 

Copra Creamer, a non-dairy coconut creamer, was awarded the “Most Promising New Venture in Consumer Packaged Goods.” 

“We’re going to be featured at the Amish Market in Mullica Hill. We’re going to be their first non-dairy creamer that they have,” said senior Music Industry major Matthew Fekete.

People’s Choice winner Cool Beanz, a vegan, non-dairy, allergy-free ice cream business, explained the way the entrepreneurship class has helped them grow. 

“Outside of class, we’ve gotten together at least three times a week to work on this product. I’ve actually had this idea for about a year, so just having this class really helped me get to the next step. I’ve sold to friends and family, but I’ve never had the idea of distributing the ice cream,” said founder Joseph M. Abate lll, a junior double major in accounting and entrepreneurship. 

Honorable Mentions included Lushious Beauty and Budget Bites, and other Promising New Ventures included Breezy Pass, Circlez, and Ameriquest. As for the first-place winner of $4,000, Bobica Bars took home the prize. 

Bobica Bars are gluten-free, vegan, whole grain, dairy-free, and nut and soy-free superfood granola bars in biodegradable packaging. 

“This is actually my first year at Rowan, this is my first major venture and competition. I’m actually really excited to get to pitch. Getting to know Harrison and Justin (co-founders) has been really cool, they’ve been super nice about opening their venture to us. It’s a vulnerable thing to allow your business to be handed by someone else, but they’ve been so supportive and I can’t be more grateful,” said Giovanny Veliz, a junior entrepreneurship major. 

Students who want to continue to pursue their business ventures are encouraged and welcomed to work with the faculty of the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship post-graduation. 

“The students see their ideas turn into dreams turn into reality. And that’s a beautiful thing,” Dr. Dominik said. 

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