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Winning team walks away with four prizes, $31,300 from McGuire Entrepreneurship Program’s New Venture Competition

Sarah Mauet

(left to right) Cory Owan, electrical and computer engineering junior; Edward LaVilla optical engineering doctoral candidate; Jonathan Besquin marketing and entrepreneurship senior; and John-Michael Stilb, marketing and entrepreneurship senior, show their winning prizes as team Specteros at the McGuire New Venture Competition April 28 at McClelland Hall.

After a rigorous contest of minds, Team Specteros emerged victorious in the UA’s annual McGuire Entrepreneurship Program New Venture Competition on Friday, April 28, winning three other awards in addition to the grand prize. Competing within an 18-team field, the team took home a total of $31,300 in prize money. Many competitors hail from the Eller College of Management and currently study in a range of business fields, but most teams also included members studying from a variety of non-Eller schools. 

Team Specteros consisted of Cory Owan, an electrical and computer engineering junior and Edward LaVilla, an optical sciences graduate student, with Jonathan Besquin and John-Michael Stilb, marketing and entrepreneurship juniors rounding out the team with Eller expertise.

“This competition was a springboard,” LaVilla said. “Hopefully, the college can look back and say that Eller did right by these guys. Hopefully, we can continue to carry the name.”

The team’s concept is designed to focus on environmental issues.

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“We want to push indoor farming as the new standard in farming,” LaVilla said.

Entering the competition, Besquin said Specteros was nervous, but that they knew they had to control their emotions; Specteros’ poise under pressure would allow them to purchase the resources needed to bring their company to the next level, aiming to never get complacent.

“We have been bootstrapping, pulling things apart and gluing things together we should not be,” LaVilla said.

Specteros never forgot about their colleagues competing to earn the same prize.

“Our classmates were a real motivation. Anything less than top tier was going to result in a loss,” LaVilla said.

Each member wanted to have teammates that would complement each other, compensating for flaws and drawing out strengths. During difficult moments, when supporting each other was not enough, the team was inspired by the work ethics of their colleagues and professors and took measures to assess themselves critically.

“Being immersed in the culture keeps us energized. We are a product of the environment,” Owan said.

On multiple occasions, Specteros’ expected performance of their product did not meet standards, however they don’t consider failure a bad thing.

“Failure is a data point,” Owan said.

Specteros said they worked hard, while acknowledging how the challenges unique to each teammate brought the best out of one another.

“I have a bit of a temperament,” LaVilla confided.

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The team encouraged Stilb to focus on details.

“I am a big-picture guy. The guys keep me down-to-earth,” Stilb said.

For Stilb, it is a picture that began to take form during his sophomore year of college.

““I wanted to spend the rest of my life coming up with adventures that could bring change to the world,” Stilb said.

Nunami Labs, a self-driving car company startup, were the runners-up, earning $5,000. Pocket Pantry, a produce and comedic delivery startup came in third place and earned $2,500. Finally, October Sports Group, a baseball equipment start-up company, earned $1,000 for winning the people’s choice award.

The newly appointed dean of Eller, Paulo Goes, siad he already sees an opportunity to grow in the future.

“We want to expand and bring in students from outside the business school,” Goes said.

Goes sees Eller students from any program as assets to any company, regardless if the student decides to become an entrepreneur. He calls the format of the entrepreneurship the future of education.

The confidence and professionalism that the competitors displayed in front of the expert panel will be tested and applied in the future as students transition to the work force.

“Students must display willingness and passion,” said Joe Broschack, McGuire entrepreneurship programs director.

Follow Phil Bramwell on Twitter.

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