If you’ve ever stood in a check-out line fumbling around for a reward card to score that free frozen yogurt, you’ll be happy to know that some Chapman University business students have a solution to that nuisance. Scratch that. They have an app for that.
Led by Brent Chow ’12, a double major in economics and business administration, the team called SweetTreats won first place in Chapman University’s 2012 Business Plan Competition with a concept that would eliminate such wallet-juggling fuss. The win brings a sweet reward all its own — $5,000 in seed funding to develop the project and entry into Chapman’s California Dreamin’, a premiere West Coast business plan competition that includes competitors from throughout the country. Both competitions are hosted by the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics in the Argyros School of Business and Economics.
The envisioned SweetTreats software would essentially aggregate multiple loyalty and reward programs and let consumers tally points and collect discounts and freebies with the simple wave of their smart phones as they make purchases, says Chow.
Google Wallet and other similar programs may come to mind, but Chow says SweetTreats is specifically focused on streamlining the point-tracking tasks at brick and mortar stores, where reward programs and punch cards can be unwieldy for patrons and unprofitable for store owners. With their app, customers would be more likely to return to stores where their points were easily tallied and store owners would gain from the extra traffic and the consumer data the software would provide. There would, of course, be functions for users to share news of their latest freebie via social media, Chow says. Or they could opt not to, if they don’t want friends to know about their latte habit or daily frozen yogurt pit stop.
“We’re basically buying into a technology that hasn’t been fully adapted. We want to ride that wave as it comes,” Chow says. “It’s coming fast.”
The team is moving fast, too. This summer Chow, along with accounting major Sean Kitamura ’12, and an off-site teammate from New York University, Sophia Dominguez ’12, will fine-tune the business plan as one of the student projects chosen for eVillage, a start-up incubator jointly operated by the Leatherby Center, the business accelerator called K5Launch and TriTech, a small business development center. Among the students’ first tasks is the hiring of a chief technology officer to create the software. They also plan to search for a new name. “SweetTreats is too bakery,” Chow says.
While they didn’t win the California Dreamin’ contest held just days after their first win, Chow says competing was invaluable.
“We won tons of experience, we won tons of exposure,” he says.
Prize sponsors included Shirish Nadkarni, MFLEX, Keith Pham. To read more about the ideas pitched by teams, visit the Argyros School of Business and Economics blog.