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Judging Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

April 15, 2016

SUNY Poly Collegiate Business Plan Competition

As part of the New York State Business Plan Competition, SUNY Polytechnic Institute hosted the Mohawk Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition: Regional Qualifier. Katie Ullman, Marketing Supervisor at First Source Federal Credit Union, participated for her third year as one of the judges.

“This is such an inspiring day,” Katie said. “I really look forward to it. These budding entrepreneurs come in armed with ideas and presentations that they’ve been pouring their soul into. We are an integral step for them to learn and grow, and potentially move on to the state qualifier in Albany and win prize money to fund their concepts. It’s very cool to share our knowledge and expertise with them and be a part of their journey.”

There were 4 categories: Products/Services, Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit, Energy/Sustainability, and Information Technology/Software. Each category had multiple groups present. Some are still in the infancy concept phase, while others have full business plans, cost/income analyses, and even prototypes.

Each group gets 10 minutes to pitch/present to the judge’s panel, and 5 minutes of Q/A time. Then each is graded individually using a standard rubric. Once they have all presented, the judges gather as a panel and really discuss each candidate, their concept, concept need within the marketplace, competition, concept development, presentation, costs, success potential, etc., and final decisions are made on advancement.

“One of last year’s winners came back to present to the group this year. It was so gratifying to see his growth and the success of his business,” Ullman added. “He was a true inspiration to the collegiate competitors in the room this year. As someone in marketing, I was thrilled to hear him tell the group how important it is to think about your marketing up front, develop your brand, live your brand, and make sure you get a well-designed, timeless, relevant logo to showcase what your business is all about. He gave the competitors very pertinent, real-life business advice.”

The regional qualifier competition drew interest from 13 student teams from nine accredited New York colleges and universities. All came to pitch their game-changing business proposals, for a chance to reach the final round and win part of the more than $500,000 in total prizes. Semifinal round competitions in nine other regions across New York have either already been held, or are scheduled to take place prior to the final round. That round is expected to draw hundreds to SUNY Poly’s Albany NanoTech Complex on April 29, 2016, when the best student teams from each region will go head-to-head. One grand prize winner will be announced, and will earn $50,000 cash and more than $50,000 in in-kind services.

Six teams advanced as regional finalists, and will head to Albany:

Information Technology/Software Category
• NPMWare – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• Travelsee – SUNY Oneonta, Cornell University

Energy/Sustainability Category
• Underground Greens – Mohawk Valley Community College

Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit Category
• Vets2Farm – Morrisville State College

Products/Services Category
• Vertica Entertainment – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• My Wine Class – Fulton Montgomery Community College

Congratulations to all who participated in another successful event! And thanks to SUNY Poly for the invitation. We can’t wait for next year!

Posted in: Blog, Posts

First Source Helps Choose Young Scholars

April 13, 2016

Young Scholars Selection CommitteeWe’ve written about the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program (YSLPP) before, and our new entry takes you behind the scenes. This multi-year collaborative project between Utica College and the Utica City School District (UCSD) is designed to motivate talented students to stay in school, earn a New York State Regents Diploma, and pursue post-secondary education.

Each year, Young Scholars serves approximately 350 students from grades 7 through 12. UCSD teachers nominate students in sixth grade—those who possess potential for success in secondary and post-secondary school, but who may not achieve their full potential due to social and economic factors—and the finalists are selected by a panel of professionals from the area.

Chosen students receive mentoring, counseling by social workers, a summer program prepping them for the following school year, college and career exploration, community service, and enrichment activities.

This year, Pam Way, our Community Relations Specialist, was on the selection committee, a group charged with the difficult task of narrowing 160 candidates down to 60 students. Once a year, this group meets to review the nominated students, and select those who will go on in the program.

“I was honored to have been asked to join the Young Scholars selection committee, and take part in the process of selecting the newest cohort of Young Scholars students,” Pam said. “There were up to 30 educators and community leaders present on selection day, and I was paired with several educators who were familiar with the process.”

Each set of 3 committee members received 15 student files containing students’ last 3 years of grades, attendance records, disciplinary records, teachers’ nominations, personal essays, student interviews, and parent/guardian questionnaires.

“I felt the moisture in my eyes gather as I read their personal appeals for help,” Pam relates. “It was very difficult to choose one deserving child over another. You can change one child’s future, and at the same time, severely disappoint another.

“It was amazing to see how these sixth grade students really knew what the Young Scholars program was all about! Their essays described how being selected would shape them as students and individuals, and give them a greater balance of academic, personal, and social growth. There are many factors to consider. To say the decisions were difficult is an understatement.”

The program has proven quite successful. Program graduates have a 93% graduation rate, 88% with regents or advanced regents diplomas, and since 2005, 86% of them have enrolled in college. A number of YSLPP students have served as summer interns in the local community, and the program’s partnership with Workforce Development has provided hundreds of its students with summer jobs.

We are very excited to have partnered with Utica College’s Young Scholars Program, and feel that their goals align very well with our community mission. We are already working to expand our partnership to help fulfill the dreams of more of our youth here in the Mohawk Valley, with job shadowing and internships for Young Scholars interested in banking and/or financing, donations of tools to teach Financial Literacy in their summer program, and plans to team up with Young Scholars this fall for community giveback for the Stevens-Swan Humane Society.

Posted in: Blog, Posts

Easy Savings for Kids

April 6, 2016

Start saving young

For kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.

Each time “income” (like birthday money) comes along, together decide how much they should put in the Spend jar, to get something they really want right now and can afford. Then look at how much can go in the Save jar, for that more expensive item they need to wait for. Then how much they might want to Donate to a child who’s not as fortunate as they are.

Parents can use this approach on a more sophisticated level, with a “Club” or “Special Purpose” account. A Club account is a savings share that you create for whatever it is you’d like: a vacation, planning for the holidays, concerts, or other events. You get the idea. You can auto-transfer a set amount from each paycheck, and start saving today! You can open this type of “Special Purpose” share right through memberONLINE.

Posted in: Blog, Posts

It Pays to Save…Literally

April 6, 2016

Save early with compound interest

“Compound interest” is an important term to be familiar with. Let’s say you’re in your early 20’s, just graduated from college, and got a job making roughly $35K. You save about $5,000/year for retirement. Let’s say you do this for 10 years, saving a total of $50K. Then something happens, you have a life change and end up not contributing any more to this initial savings. Your existing savings will still continue to grow until you retire when you’re 65.

Now let’s say instead, you were unable to save right away. But at around 40, you had a secure job making roughly $75K, and then you can start to save. So you save $10K/year for 10 years, saving a total of $100K. At 50, you have a life change and cannot contribute any more. But your initial savings grow until you retire at 65.

In both scenarios, let’s say your investment grew at 10% per year. At age 65, your totals would be very different. The “you” who started saving in your early 20’s would have a little over $1 million to retire. The “you” who started saving at 40, even though you contributed more, would have only a little more than $500,000.

Why? Time.

Investments take time to grow, and the longer you have, the better. So even if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s better to start saving even a little now, than waiting to save more later.

For young kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.

Posted in: Blog, Posts

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