Posted on Feb 28, 2008

Steve Votto ’08 delivers a 90-second “elevator pitch” for Votto Vines Importing LLC, a Connecticut-based limited liability company importing fine wines and food from small Italian vineyards and distributing those products in Connecticut at the Union Colle

A company that imports fine wines and food from small Italian vineyards for sale in the U.S. took top honors Thursday night in the college’s annual business plan competition.

The plan by Steve Votto ’08 of Votto Vines Importing LLC beat out six other start-up companies proposed by Union students. Votto receives a free, one-year affiliation with the U-Start Business Incubator and a trip to New York City, where he will spend a night at the Cornell Club and have lunch with a business executive. He also receives a gift certificate from Staples.

Votto Vines Importing, based in Connecticut, plans to also import its products to Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The company also provides agritourism packages at selected Italian vineyards.

This marked the third year of the business plan competition, sponsored by the College’s Entrepreneurship Club. The competition consisted of an “elevator pitch,’’ in which students had one minute to present their ideas, and a 15-minute Powerpoint presentation. The club’s advisor is Hal Fried, the David L. '39 and Beverly B. Yunich Professor of Business Ethics.

Second prize went to Rhe-Aux Technologies, created by Brent Blythe ’08, Margaret Callahan ’09, Cara Gallivan ’09, Nirav Shah ’08 and Steve Walker ’08. The company has designed an auxiliary braking system which can reduce heavy-capacity vehicles stopping distances by up to 30 percent.

Third prize went to ComDry, created by Rebecca Damberg-Mauser ’08, Ilya Aspis ’08, Jenna Monaster ’08 and Roni Brumberger ’09. The company produced a solar rice dryer that would modernize rice drying methods in Southeast Asia.

Allison Lacoff ’08, Ryan Cahill ’08, Shauna Keeler ’09 won a Staples gift certificate in the elevator pitch segment for their company, No Hands, which specializes in sinks operated by foot pedals.

Other students who competed Thursday included Brittany Adam ’08, Alan Piekara ’09, Samuel Elias ’09, Andrew Kehl ’09 and Jenna Frisch ’09 (Crest Wave Energy Consulting); Jason Bye ’08 (Harmony Sauces); and Laura Eyman ’08, Harley Gorton ’08, Sam Posnock ’08 and Kristy Sonnenberg ’08 (Texture Technology Services).

Andrew Gibson, CEO of Celery, LLC; Laura Mann, Co-founder of Glenmont Partners; and Jon Stillman, Managing Director of Assembla, Inc. judge 90-second “elevator pitches” at the Union College Entrepreneurship Club’s 3rd Annual business plan Competition Feb.

Judges were Jon Stillman, a member of High Peaks Venture Partners and managing director of Assembla, Inc., an early stage software company; Laura Mann, co-founder of the venture capital firm Glenmont Partners; and Andrew Gibson, CEO of Celery LLC, a Troy firm that designs and markets software that makes a traditional fax machine able to send and receive e-mails, without the need for a computer or an Internet connection.

The winner of last year’s competition, Second Breath Inc., is one of nine semifinalists in the fifth annual Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (SEED) National Collegiate Venture Forum, to be held in March in Santa Barbara.

The company, which offers Cric-Kits to aid in a cricothyroidotomy, an emergency procedure performed on patients suffering from an obstructed airway, was created by Shane Hubbell ’08, Jay Shah ’08 and Gordon Single ’07.