SUNY Plattsburgh Free Enterprise Competition

Christian Hines, EMC Staff Writer

On Friday March 1st, five Tec-Smart students went up to SUNY Plattsburgh to compete in the seventh annual free enterprise marathon. At Tec-Smart about a month ago students were given the task to write a three to four minute speech on the topic, “Free Enterprise: Why it is Essential for Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs.” This was the perfect opportunity for entrepreneurial students to show off their business knowledge. Five out of the ten kids that gave speeches were chosen to attend the competition in Plattsburgh. The five students from Tec-Smart represented three seniors from the program along with two juniors. We traveled bright and early Friday morning to arrive at the campus at 8:30. The five of us formed a team that competed against four other high schools including Peru Jr.Sr. High School, Westport Central School, Chazy Central School and a home school team.

A few days before heading up to Plattsburgh we were emailed a company to research as our challenge would pertain to them. The company was Norsk Titanium, an innovative manufacturing business that uses three dimensional printing technology using titanium to create aerospace parts. This company was founded in Norway but has opened up a facility in Plattsburgh as many of their customers are in the United States as well as Canada.

When we arrived on competition day the Norsk Titanium executives tasked each group with creating a new product for them to manufacture, accompanied by a complete marketing plan and flyer promoting our idea. The product we chose to focus on had to fit in their current 3D printing machines which is a 3x2x1 foot box. We had to create a PowerPoint presentation The Norsk Pole for a panel of five judges that we needed to present to later in the day. We were only given roughly three and a half hours to brainstorm a product, competitive advantage, target market goals, organizational chart for the company etc. There were both high school and college teams that attended participating in their own separate competitions.

The product that we developed for this marketing challenge was a collapsible ski pole made out of titanium. Our company was named The Norsk Pole as a play on ski poles. The judges found our name to be quite amusing so we were off to a good start from the get go. There were several major benefits to making the ski poles out of titanium instead of aluminum like traditional poles. The poles weigh less, and titanium allows the poles to last longer and are much stronger. Traditional poles are prone to bend often with 50% of all skiers breaking their poles at least once per season. This shows that people have a need for the product. The poles being collapsible makes it easier for the user to carry. Titanium is also a metal that does not corrode which will allow for the poles to last a longer time then traditional poles.

A unique way of promoting our product was that we incorporated an environmental recycling incentive program. With this we encouraged customers to bring their old skis to a Norsk Pole retailer to be recycled in exchange for a five percent discount on their first Norsk Pole purchase. We presented our idea and research to the judges and were given up to eight minutes to present as a team. At the end of our presentation our whole group was feeling very good about it. After we were done we got to watch the next groups present and everyone did fairly well. We were glad to present first as it set the bar high for future teams. Our group watched the four teams after us and they all did fantastic so I knew the race for first place would be very tight.

At the end of the day we had an awards dinner where the prizes were handed out to the top three teams that competed in the college competition and high school competition. I was very nervous going into the announcement of the awards because I wanted to win very badly. The announcer said the teams that came in third and second first and our names were not called. This meant that we either did very good or very bad. Luckily all of the pressure was released when the called our Tec-Smart group to the front as the 1st place winner. We won $1,000 for coming in place so after splitting it five ways with my teammates we all walked away with $200 for a days work. This experience was one of the best of my life and it solidified my interest in entering a business related career in the future.