Spark Tank Puts Student Ideas to the Test

Spark Tank Puts Student Ideas to the Test

Monday, April 4, 2016

Siena College’s David ’73 and Christine Spicer ’75 Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is bringing the big screen to life with their biannual Spark Tank event. Based on ABC’s critically-acclaimed reality show, Shark Tank, Siena students pitch their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs in hopes of getting their expert stamp of approval.

Sponsored by the Siena College Entrepreneur Organization (SCEO) and the Stack Center, the 2016 spring Spark Tank brought together aspiring student entrepreneurs with Siena community members who have had success in the entrepreneurial world. This year’s competition featured 15 teams, two of which returned from previous competitions with new ideas. The 15 teams, comprised of 23 students, developed their unique ideas to target originality, marketability, financial potential and difficulty of launch. They then presented their ideas to two Siena alumni, Pat Gray ’04, founder of and Jackie Higgins ’83, founder of Beach Glass Designs, as well as Joseph Ferlito, founder of Trrtlz. All three judges are members of the Maddalone Entrepreneur Wall of Success.

"I was amazed by the innovation, dedication and enthusiasm of the student entrepreneurs who participated in Spark Tank,” said Higgins. “It was an honor to be a part of the judging team and great fun to be back on campus. After spending time with the students, I looked at my own business with a fresh view. What a rewarding and energizing experience.”

Ultimately, only one team could come out on top. This year’s winning idea, Sundial was presented by Simon Bruno ’18 and Julian Lavelle ’17.  Bruno, an economics major and Lavelle, a marketing major, combined their talents and entrepreneurial aspirations to dream up this solar-powered wrist watch with a social mission. Sundial would work to stop poverty by providing families across the globe with the resources to learn, live and grow.

“[Spark Tank] took me outside the realm of school and into one of business and professionalism. Having to present an idea in front of a number of successful, wealthy entrepreneurs created this real, yet exciting, pressure that forced me outside my comfort zone, which I am very grateful for,” said Lavelle.

Bruno is a two-time Spark Tank winner, bringing home the prize during his freshman year for Glassback Playing Cards. He turned that idea into a reality, producing stained glass theme-designed decks of cards.

“The Spark Tank Competition has helped me tremendously in preparing for higher level competitions. All of the judges provided great advice and feedback. It has been exciting to see the programs in the Stack Center grow over the past couple semesters."

Environmental studies major, Rob Ewing ’17, took home the second place prize with his idea, Finest Tide Oysters Farm. Stemming from his own experience working on an oyster farm, Ewing is combining his passion with his academic interests.

The Spark Tank competition and the Stack Center bring together students of all majors and disciplines to create and develop their ideas. Through the mentorship of the Center’s staff and the network of entrepreneurial alumni, Siena students are able to face their aspirations head on.