Channel Abroad, an information and translation company designed to cross language and cultural barriers, was the winner of the May 22 Miclot Business Plan Competition, which is presented by The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur.
Charles Zhang ’17 (Shanghai, China), who started the company, said the business uses current students to answer the questions of prospective foreign students and parents. The service can also translate important documents for schools, making it easier for foreign parents to understand.
His program is currently using the Chinese form of Facebook, WeChat. It is operational and has had 30,000 views from 314 people, he said. By utilizing current boarding school/college students to translate information and answer the questions of prospective students and parents, Channel Abroad makes it easier for schools and colleges to bridge the cultural and language gaps that regular translation services cannot.
With so many students, especially Chinese students, looking for an overseas educational experience, Zhang sees a strong growth model for Channel Aboard. The biggest problems would be the inability to sign enough schools to use the service; finding enough students to work for the service; and finding enough qualified people to keep it operational. There are currently 10 schools using the service and he is anticipating that growing to 15 through the summer. His business model calls for the website to be operational by July 2016 and the mobile application to be running a year later.
Zhang’s business model earned him the top prize of $5,000. He donated part of his prize to help underwrite the costs of the Global Pathways Spring mission trip to Mexico.
The second place prize of $1,000 went to Santiago Fernandez ’16 (Mexico City) for his concept, the Green Revolving Fund. The Green Revolving Fund would be a dedicated amount of the school’s annual operating budget to assess and operate energy efficient projects. It would be used to evaluate and establish the best projects based on sustainability and in educating and engaging the community, he said.
Using a system to track the savings, that amount would go back into the fund. Using the savings to grow the fund would limit the amount of seed capital needed. The fund would be managed and operated by a team of students similar to the management team for the Rubin Café, he said.
Third place went to Savelet, a special LED tracking bracelet that could be used in emergencies to call for help. Ryan Gies ’17 (Geneva, Ill.) and Nicolas Walker ’17 (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) presented the concept of using GPS location technology to find the person needing assistance faster.
A recent New York Times article cited that one-in-four women on college campuses will be victims of some form of sexual assault. The Savelet would make it easier for them to call for assistance and campus security to find them. With its LED glow, it may also serve as a deterrent, they said. The concept earned them $500.
Six proposals were presented during the competition. Serving as judges were Rob Ferrino, the owner of Madison Construction; Julie Brooks, co-owner of Civvies, a boutique in Culver; and James Snyder, a partner in Hammond, Kennedy, Whitney & Company, Inc., an Indianapolis-based private equity firm.
The Miclot Business Plan Competition is open to all students on campus. It requires entrepreneurial teams to work with a mentor. Endowed by Culver parents Andy and Sharlene Miclot of Boca Raton, Fla., the competition requires the students to devise a product or service, work on a business plan, and do field research, all under the guidance of their mentor. The teams then make their presentations before a panel of Culver alumni or parent entrepreneurs, who act as the judges.