Winners announced in the 2011 Notre Dame Invention Convention

Author: Melissa Paulsen

Five local high school students competed in the final competition of the 2011 Notre Dame Invention Convention Youth Business Plan Competition, held March 30 in Giovanini Commons at the Mendoza College of Business.

Matt Danik, a sophomore at Clay High School, won the first place prize of $500 for “Danik’s Landscaping,” which offers quality landscaping and maintenance services at affordable prices.  According to John Rocha, a Notre Dame mentor and student leader with the program, “Working with these students and watching them grow in both their confidence and business acumen has been an absolute privilege to see.  Their ideas were fresh, original, and extremely creative.”

Second place and $300 went to junior Ashley Hesla from Clay High School for “Flopsocks,” “cute, fluffy, and comfy” socks, designed to be worn with flip flops.

Penn High School sophomore Madeleine Paulsen won $200 for third place with “Spice of Life Bakery.” The two remaining finalists included Kimberley Barber, a Clay sophomore, who entered “Fundana Bandana Wallet; and Penn sophomore Nick Ortega, with “Ortega Advertising Services.”All five finalists traveled to New York City April 13-14 to participate in a national youth entrepreneurship gala.

Duane Wilson, program director with the Robinson Community Learning Center and a former high school administrator, said, “To see these high school sophomores and juniors speak with such confidence on topics such as  annual sales projections and investment strategies not only highlights the value of entrepreneurial education, but gives them a skill set that sets them apart from their peers."

The Invention Convention, in its ninth year, invites local high school students to submit their best ideas for a business venture into the competition, which begins in the fall.  Sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Mendoza College of Business and the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC), the event aims to enhance their business, academic and life skills through an entrepreneurship curriculum provided by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). 

The program cultivates a spirit of entrepreneurship by providing innovative learning experiences relevant to the entrepreneurial world.  The students learn the basics of starting their own business and engage with Notre Dame mentors to develop a unique business plan of their own. This year-long program culminates with a business plan competition, at which students have the opportunity to showcase their work. Notre Dame undergraduate and MBA students participate as mentors and event judges.

“The Invention Convention represents the best ideas and the more polished presentations, but all of the program participants have worked through ideation exercises, given elevator pitches, completed a $20 challenge, and considered social impact alongside their business ideas,” said Melissa Paulsen, a program manager with the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.  “We can’t wait to get started again next year.” 

Contact:  Melissa Paulsen, program manager, (574) 631-7568,