Entrepreneurial Pioneers compete & share business ideas

Scott Army '01 had a small idea that sparked an exciting initiative at Saint John's: the 2016 Business Plan Competition

Aware of the entrepreneurial spirit that has long been present in students and alumni, Scott, along with the efforts of Entrepreneurial Studies teacher Chris Benestad, set out last year to establish the Scott Army Center for Entrepreneurship at Saint John's High School.

Since then, the program has continued to grow and this month hosted the second annual Business Plan Competition Pitch Day. The idea for the Business Plan day grew out of the class and club already in existence at the school. This day of business proposals, presentations, and networking was the culmination of students coming together to turn their business, nonprofit, and product ideas into realities. 

Pitch Day

On Saturday, March 19, 2016, students, faculty, parents, alumni and guests gathered in Remillard Hall of the Ryken Center to watch six presenters vying for cash prizes of $1250, $750, and $500, for Best Pitch, Pitch Runner-up, and Best Business Plan respectively. 

The judges were Vicki Anastasi P'14,'18Brian Darling '84, and Justin Gewandter '99.  Brian Darling is one of the owners of Woodbury Health Products.  Justin Gewandter works in the business to business sales channel for Apple Inc., and Vicki Anastasi has over thirty years of working with start-up businesses. 

Students and alumni submitted business plans to Mr. Christopher Benestad of the Mathematics Department, who teaches the Entrepreneurial Studies class and runs the Entrepreneurship club at Saint John’s. 

The Pitches

Getting the pitches started was freshman Syon Khosla.  Syon wants to create a product that helps heavy sleepers, those with roommates or children, and those who are hearing impaired.  His product is called the Bed Bass and is designed to slip under the pillow and provide vibration to wake a person from sleep without any noise.  Syon did a great job with his pitch and fielded many questions from the judges and audience. 

Next up were seniors Jake O’Donnell and Brad Washburn, who are members of the Entrepreneurship Club.  They want to create a smart phone application that allows girls to buy, sell, and trade formal dresses. Their plan, called PromMe, is to create and offer the app for free, then offer a paid version that expands the radius the person can search.  Their plan won the best business plan award. 

Third on the list were seniors Matt Stephens, Cam Smith, Nick Staples, and Alex Zhang.  These four seniors have created a one piece multi-tool attached to a lanyard called the Landyard.  This tool is designed as a lanyard multi-tool, for outdoorsmen and other individuals, and helps people who are in a dangerous situation to escape, cut, or saw their way out.  The four students have an actual prototype created and they are currently shopping for a manufacturer to make the product out of stainless steel.  This group was the runner-up for the best pitch. 

After a short break, Kyle Wronski-Hersbt of the class of 2016 shared his pitch for his idea for a YouTube channel called Not Your Average Gamer.  Kyle currently works with his business partner on their channel called Bright Sun Films, which has over 40,000 followers.  Kyle hopes to start a new channel and draw many of these followers to his new channel.  By having a large number of followers, advertisers will pay to put ads before his videos. 

Last up was senior Jacob Morgan with his social entrepreneurship idea for a Saint John’s Coffee Shop.  He is a big supporter of the small town coffee shop that provides friendly customer service and good food and coffee.  Jacob pitched his idea of building a coffee shop on campus that would be open to students during free periods and local residents of the surrounding towns.  One full time manager and several work-study students would operate the shop.  Jacob won the votes of the audience and judges with his interesting personality and well-performed pitch.  Jacob won the prize for best pitch of the day.  

Every participant brought enthusiasm and confidence when delivering their well-formulated business plans, and the audience had a chance to engage and ask
questions of each young entrepreneur. The six diverse plans sparked conversation throughout the morning.

  • Syon Khosla ’19 (Bed Bass Business Plan)
  • Jake O'Donnell ’16, Brad Washburn '16 (PromMe, Prom dress app)*Winner: Best Business Plan
  • Jacob Morgan ’16 (SJ Coffee/Breakfast Shop) *Winner: Best Pitch
  • Kyle Wronski-Herbst ’16 (Not Your Average Gamer)
  • Matthew Stephens ’16, Nick Staples ’16, Alexander Zhang ’16, Cam Smith ’16 (Landyard Multi-tool) *Runner-Up: Best Business Plan Pitch

Guest Speaker

After the judges and audience voted on the winners, Rory O'Connor '05 spoke with the audience about his own professional journey since graduation, and offered his tips on how to be a successful entrepreneur to the crowd of students, alumni, and guests. is a co-founder and VP of Engineering at Ovuline. Rory started and ran an SaaS company focused on simplifying the college admissions process for applicants and has spent his career in startups building and designing software platforms and products for web and mobile. As a self-taught engineer, Rory has built his career on his ability to deeply learn new technologies and use these learnings to build great products and businesses.


Special thanks go to Scott Army, who devoted his time and efforts to making the Entrepreneurship program at Saint John's a vibrant program for students to see the incredible work that Pioneers are doing all over the world.

Learn more about entrepreneurship at Saint John's High School.



2016 Business Plan Pitch Day
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