A trio of juniors - Vinny Bandwen ‘21, Matt Benisek ‘21 and Michael Snelling ‘21 - launched Cutting Edge Landscaping in 2018 as a way to make some money during the summer. In the ensuing months, they have dedicated more and more time to their venture and enrolled in the Management & Entrepreneurship course this past fall, eager for the opportunity to further hone their business model.
As part of the class, students completed business plans and executive summaries. They submitted the executive summaries to thinkBIG!, the Veale Innovation Challenge and Summit sponsored by the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum. The Challenge tasked students with discussing the business concept, outlining the problem and its solution, identifying customers and competition as well as assets needed, defining the challenges and addressing the business’ financial feasibility.
From the nearly 300 submissions, some were invited to compete in the second round, which involved submitting a 60-90-second video and a slide deck. Of that group, only four were invited to participate in the Live Pitch, which was held this Tuesday, March 3 at CWRU’s Tinkham Veale University Center and Cutting Edge Landscaping was one of those four finalists.
The trio presented their business concept to an audience of about 400 students and teachers as well as Gen Z and millennial entrepreneurs. Their landscaping company, founded in 2018, has already generated almost $25,000 in profits in its two years in existence! They have a steady client base of more than 40 regular customers and take on one-time and/or seasonal jobs as well.
At the end of the competition, Vinny, Matt and Michael were awarded first prize in the Small Business category! They earned $3,000 in prize money, which they plan to invest in their business to purchase new equipment, a trailer and uniforms.
Asked about their success, Mr. Polak said, “I am incredibly proud of Vinny, Matt and Michael. They have put so much work into both their business and this competition. They started working on their contest entry in November and had to advance through two prior rounds before earning the right to compete in the finals on Tuesday.” He continued, “What really stood out to me, and apparently the judges as well, is that they are building a real business versus just creating a business plan. As thrilling as it was to see these guys win a competition against almost 170 entries from 20 other schools, it is more exciting for me to work with them on their plans to grow and sustain their business.” He concluded, “They are clearly demonstrating so many of the outcomes we hope to see our students develop in their time at Gilmour.