A company offering custom-made dolls and an eye drop that can help treat macular degeneration were the ideas behind the top finishers at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup, an annual business plan competition.
Presenting before hundreds in attendance at the Statehouse Convention Center, students from universities around the state described their ideas in brief "elevator pitches" as a large 90-second timer ticked behind them.
When the pitches were done and the votes (sent in by the crowd via text message) were counted, the University of Arkansas LumaDrop team was first on the graduate level and Arleesa LLC from John Brown University took first among undergraduates.
The winning teams received $25,000 and will also advance to a tri-state event where they will compete with teams from Nevada and Oklahoma.
Neil Bora, a University of Arkansas graduate student and chief executive officer for the winning LumaDrop group, led his team's business plan for an eye drop his parents developed that can be used to treat wet-type age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people 50 and over.
Bora said the leading treatment now is a shot that costs $2,000 per eye per month.
"This is a big, big accomplishment for us," he said after the ceremony. "It's going to help us move forward with our development of our drug."
Jeremy Enders, a recent John Brown University graduate who served as CEO for the Arleesa group, presented the team's idea during the Governor's Cup, telling the crowd that the company will let parents and daughters go online together to create a personalized doll from a variety of "ethnically- and proportionally-accurate" features.
The doll will "emphasize values rather looks" and will strive for "empowerment of the individual rather than other dolls on the market that do the opposite," Enders said. The team's experience with the Governor's Cup, and taking home the top undergraduate prize, may be key to the company concept one day becoming a reality.
"It's really taking everything you learn in business school and making you apply it in a practical setting," Enders said of the competition. "[You're] trying to get as real numbers as you can and make something happen in real life, which is a great experience."
The top three finishers in each division were as follows:
1) LumaDrop - University of Arkansas
2) DataVis - University of Arkansas
3) HermaNotics - University of Arkansas
1) Arleesa, LLC - John Brown University
2) BioBotic Solutions - University of Arkansas and Hendrix College
3) Funding Fathers - John Brown University