'Shark Tank' for Teenagers Comes to Campus

Comptroller Schnirman speaking at a podium

SUNY Old Westbury and its School of Business welcomed the opportunity recently to host the 7th annual Nassau County Comptroller’s Entrepreneurial Challenge. 

The event featured more than a dozen student-led teams from public schools across Nassau County creating a fictional organization’s comprehensive business plan and elevator pitch in a ‘Shark Tank Style’ format. The student teams were instructed to tailor their pitches to the theme of Civic Innovation within one of two categories: Technology and Social Entrepreneurship. The program was geared to inspire students to not only create a successful business plan, but also give back and make a positive impact in their communities.

“We were excited to host this innovative business competition, bringing more than one hundred high school students and future business leaders on campus to pitch their creative ideas,” said Dr. Raj Devasagayam, dean of the School of Business. “Bringing this competition focused on entrepreneurship to our campus is a natural fit to enhance the experience for students.”

For 2019, the program was centered on the theme of “Civic Innovation” and included two categories: Social Entrepreneurship and Technology. A total of 18 teams from 12 schools each comprised of five students took part in the competition. Each team was asked to conceptualize a mission, product, or service and develop a business/organizational plan for a hypothetical start-up technology company or community-oriented not-for-proft organization. Then, each student on a team was tasked with filling a different executive role for the start-up organization. 

“The challenge is designed to give students with different backgrounds and passions an opportunity to get involved and pitch their ideas to create businesses that will do good for our communities while doing well in front of local business and nonprofit leaders,” Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said. “Any young person can make a difference in their community and be a citizen superhero through civic innovation or social entrepreneurship, and the Challenge is a great platform to showcase the next generation of leaders in Nassau County.”

The "Shark Tank-like" judging panels were comprised of community business and civic leaders, and the event was sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union and SUNY Old Westbury.

The judges for the event included:

  • Brian Berkery, Creative Vibe Advertising
  • Jacob Dixon, Choice for All
  • Retha Fernandez, Urban League LI
  • Dexter Hedgepath, Nassau County Office of Minority Affairs
  • Marissa Hoffmann, School of Business, SUNY Old Westbury
  • Shari James, James Consulting Group LLC
  • Dr. Carolyn McCummings, Nassau County Department of Human Services
  • Art Samansky, The Samansky Group
  • Rebecca Sanin, Health & Welfare Council
  • Shalei Simms, School of Business, SUNY Old Westbury
  • Robert Suarez, Bethpage Federal Credit Union
  • Stacey Sykes, Hofstra University Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Jillian Weston, Jillian’s Circus

The technology category was won by a team from New Hyde Park High School, while students from East Meadow High School won in the social entrepreneurship category. 

“Congratulations to all teams involved on developing some tremendous plans for businesses and nonprofits here in Nassau County,” Schnirman said. “I was blown away by the unique ideas tailor-made to thrive in our communities, and I’m honored to recognize this year’s winners.”

Photo Captions

  • Above:  Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman welcomes the student-competitors and the judges to the competition.
  • Below:  School of Business faculty members Marissa Hoffman, Art Samansky, and Shalei Simms with judge Brian Berkery, owner of Creative Vibe Advertising and a graduate of SUNY Old Westbury.

Faculty and a graduate smile and pose