After four years of rewarding high-school level entrepreneurs in the Business Concept Competition, Rider decided to open the playing field to current students. Following the same principles as the high-school event, the new Rider Collegiate Business Concept Competition challenged aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas in front of a panel of judges with the hopes of winning the $500 first-place prize on April 13.
Junior marketing majors Joseph Corsentino and Daniel Igoe claimed the top prize for their product Solepods, a moldable, customizable earbud made out of silicone. Rather than a traditional earbud that sits in the ear canal and can cause pressure when someone lies down, Solepods coat the outside of the ear with the speaker built-into the coating to avoid discomfort.
“Everyone thinks the correct way for an earbud to look is how it currently does. We’re just reinventing the wheel and inventing it the correct way,” says Corsentino.
The road to winning was unorthodox for the friends and roommates who originally placed fourth after submitting their written entry (only the top three entries were chosen to present live). Corsentino and Igoe received a call less than two hours before the event asking if they would still be interested in participating; a competitor was forced to withdraw because of a family emergency.
“We didn’t have any presentation prepared or a prototype ready for the competition. We had about an hour to get everything together,” says Igoe. “It was a total underdog situation.”
In addition to their business idea — which the duo developed during a 12-hour car ride while studying abroad in New Zealand last year — Corsentino credits their quick-thinking and natural storytelling abilities for making their presentation feel unique among the judging panel.
“We’re the comeback kids. We were already a bit of a curveball entry. Just following what everyone else was doing didn’t really fit our style so we knew we needed to stand out from the other competitors,” says Corsentino. “We noticed the overwhelming theme was a very serious, buttoned-up one. We wanted to take a more relaxed approached.”
Lisa Teach, Rider’s entrepreneur-in-residence and competition organizer, says the judges were very impressed with how naturally Igoe and Corsentino pitched their business idea.
“They did not have notecards and spoke off the cuff, allowing the audience to follow their journey through storytelling,” she says. “They told us about how they developed the idea after repeatedly falling asleep with earbuds in because of a snoring roommate and waking up with ear pain. They made the presentation not just informational, but engaging and relatable.”
Corsentino and Igoe used the $500 prize to purchase a provisional application for a patent, which allows them to have a one-year waiting period to further develop their product before filling an official patent. Their goal is to sell their idea to a current earbud manufacturer.
Corsentino and Igoe will also be participating in ENT 420: Student Venture Experience. This three-credit course allows them to work with a faculty advisor and business mentor to launch their business. If approved, they can also receive a no-interest matching loan of up to $5,000 through the Rider University Student Venture Fund.
The Rider Collegiate Business Concept Competition was sponsored by Fizzee Labs, a consulting firm founded by Rider alumnus Joe Hudicka ’90 and his family that teaches innovation and creativity.