Major Gift Supports Entrepreneurship, Promenade

November 14, 2017

When I was a student … there would be spillover crowds from the auditorium and people wouldn’t be able to participate,” Frenkel explained. “Now they can sit outside in a beautiful area and watch what’s going on inside and be a part of it.

Through a significant gift, the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation created the Business Plan Competition Endowed fund, which will forever finance the annual University of Miami Business Plan Competition, hosted by the School of Business. The foundation’s gift also financed renovations of the School’s outdoor promenade, which was dedicated Nov. 14 as the Finker-Frenkel Family Promenade.

Now in its 16th year, the Business Plan Competition awards nearly $50,000 in prize money annually to University of Miami students and alumni to help them launch or grow startup ventures. “My family came here 25 years ago with $100 in their pockets and were able to build a major multinational business because of their entrepreneurial spirit and the environment this country has provided to them,” said Eugene Frenkel (MBA ’12), co-director of the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation and CEO of Legacy Group of Companies. “The entrepreneurial spirit is extremely important, and we want to foster those values and create that environment for the students at the U.”

Students whose lives were changed by the Business Plan Competition include David Gantt (BBA ’18) and Chester Montefering (BSIE ’18), cofounders of Therion PC. Last year, they won the $10,000 Grand Prize in the undergraduate student category for their idea to build and market water-cooled PCs to gamers. Gantt and Montefering used their winnings to diversify their product line and build more powerful computers, and now they’re working on a website where they will sell their products. “The computers we are building are expensive, and I don’t have $5,000 in my back pocket to put into this,” Gantt said. “We’re designing the computers from the ground up, and that takes trial and error. The money allowed us to go all out in the design process to make it look as cool and be as powerful as possible!”

Kelly Pierce (BSEd ’08, MSEd ’12), who last year took home the $10,000 Grand Prize in the graduate student and alumni category and the $1,000 People’s Choice Award, spoke at the dedication about how the competition set her up for success. Her venture, Pierce Plan, automatically tracks NCAA academic requirements so high school student athletes and their counselors can ensure they are eligible to play in college and compete in the classroom. “The prize money was integral in moving the Pierce Plan forward,” Pierce told the crowd, which included University of Miami President Julio Frenk and School of Business Dean John Quelch. “Winning the Business Plan Competition opened doors I’ve been leaning on [ever since].”

During the dedication, Frenkel shared that his favorite addition to the Finker-Frenkel Promenade, which is an outdoor study and gathering space, is an oversized screen. The screen is one of the largest at a business school in the U.S., and will carry live feeds from Storer Auditorium. He also drew cheers by presenting Frenk with his very own Hurricanes Football turnover chain necklace – a copy of the hefty gold chain with a green and orange U that players get to wear when they force a turnover on an opponent. Frenkel also reminisced about his days as a student, singling out his favorite professor, Anuj Mehrotra, the School’s senior vice dean, vice dean for faculty development and research and Leslie O. Barnes Scholar and professor of management science.

Mehrotra told the crowd: “As a professor, I take great pride in his success, and this gift is particularly impactful because it supports student ideas and innovations.”
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