Through much of April, the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation hosted its first Innovathon Competition, which culminated in student groups presenting their solutions to real-world issues affecting local companies.
In previous years, the Neff College of Business and Innovation hosted a Business Plan Competition, which centered on UToledo students developing a business plan. This year, Dr. Marcelo Alvarado-Vargas, director of the competition, and Dr. Anne L. Balazs, dean of the Neff College of Business and Innovation, took the competition in a different direction: They partnered with Angie Jones, director of the UToledo Family Business Center, to aid a pair of local family businesses, Aunt Katrina’s Organic Tomatoes and 2-SCALE.
The event was designed as a case study competition, in which participants were provided with the specific issues each company was confronting as well as additional details of the inner workings of both businesses.
The competition was broken down into two “tracks” per company, totaling in four separate issues that the participants could choose to address.
The competing student groups were required to submit a paper of no more than 3,000 words by April 7. A group of judges evaluated these papers, with the top two entries per track selected as finalists. These finalist groups then presented their solutions via WebEx to the panel of judges on April 16, where the champions were subsequently chosen.
The 2021 Innovathon Champions are Janhavi Kondurkar, Akshay Chawan, Shubham Gaikar and Aalana Patnaikuni for their work on Track A1. For Track A2, Katie Chryst, Lily Hoffman and Nicholas Chryst were selected as the winners. Track B1’s champion was Jacob Oberski. Due to last-minute circumstances, no winner was selected for Track B2.
Each track had a monetary prize of $1,000 per team for the winner.
“The principal goals for the competition,” Alvarado-Vargas said, “were connecting our students with local businesses by understanding their challenges and proposing solutions, leveraging our UToledo Family Business Center’s reach with the local community and strengthening ties with local businesses by creating synergies and opportunities for collaboration.”
Chryst, one of the winners of Track A2, said the Innovathon Competition was a great opportunity — personally and for her teammates — to be challenged as “aspiring business professionals while also interacting with accomplished individuals from the Toledo community.
“The knowledge we’ve gained from our classes helped us solve real-world problems that occur in companies of all sizes,” she said. “I look forward to participating in next year’s competition.”
The 2022 competition is slated to begin sometime in February, with the final presentations in early April.
“The success of the first Innovathon has shown us how beneficial a competition like this can be for both our students and the local business community,” Balazs said. “We are thrilled to announce that the 2nd Annual Innovathon Competition will occur over the course of the Spring 2022 semester.”