SMU student is national finalist at entrepreneur awards competition

One minute to prep.

Ten minutes to present.

Four minutes to answer questions from the judges.

Five minutes for judges to take notes and deliberate.

Twenty minutes total to make a favorable impression.

Four student entrepreneurs, chosen by the Entrepreneur’s Organization’s Dallas chapter as finalists for the regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, were each given this 20 minute time period to deliver their business pitches to a panel of judges and a live audience Monday night, Nov. 16 in Dallas Hall.

Out of the four, SMU senior Eddie Allegra took the spot as DFW’s national finalist and will be presenting his business plan for BioLum Sciences, an asthma diagnosis and management company, in Miami in February 2016.

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Eddie Allegra, CEO of BioLum Services celebrates his win at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Photo credit: Ryan Miller

This was the first ever GSEA regional competition held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is a premier award program for student entrepreneurs, which gives them opportunities to accelerate their companies and spread their ideas to a business minded community.

But as the event moderator said, there were no “Shark Tank” style offers made.

All students were encouraged to give their best pitch and test the waters of the entrepreneurial world.

Out of the four students that presented to a panel of five judges, comprised of business leaders and entrepreneurs, and to an audience of about 60 people, two presenters were current SMU undergraduate students.

Allegra, the CEO of the winning team, jumped right into entrepreneurship after his friend in the Entrepreneur Club on campus told him about the research and patent for the asthma-screening device that was created right at SMU.

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Eddie Allegra presenting BioLum Sciences to the audience and panel of judges. Photo credit: Emma Hutchinson

“My friend came into my room one day and he was going nuts. He could barely explain it because he was so excited,” Allegra said.

Allegra ended up having a major role in the company as the idea grew. He grew up involved in public speaking and became the spokesperson for the business after winning an elevator pitch contest on campus.

He joined the Entrepreneurship Club on campus, and brought the idea for BioLum to life with his friend Jack Reynolds, an SMU graduate, and Miguel Quimbar, another member of the club.

Dr. Simon Mak, one of the faculty advisors for the club, and an audience member at the competition, taught the BioLum team how to pitch and help them understand and create a business model for their concept from the ground up.

Mak helps put students’ business plans into action and was very excited to have GSEA come to SMU’s campus this fall and help student’s pursue their ideas and make their companies known in the community, even if they were not chosen to advance to the national competition.

“We need to encourage more student entrepreneurs and SMU is a great place to do that, and the city of Dallas is a great place for a start up,” Mak said.

Other students who pitched plans included SMU student Jonah Kirby, the spokesperson and creator of Fiddler, a plan focused on wind power and turbines made for home roofs to conserve energy; Chad Montgomery from University of Texas at Dallas, the founder of Big Texas Beer Fest; and Asha Boyd from University of North Texas, creator and personal shopper for her company, Ladies’ Styles.

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Jonah Kirby presents Fiddler. Photo credit: Ryan Miller

Kirby won the RECESS pitch contest held on campus last month. He will compete nationally in Los Angeles in January.

“I’m feeling fine,” Kirby said. “BioLum is an awesome company and the product is really needed. The company is far more mature and deserved to win.”

Boyd was the final presenter, but had the biggest response from the crowd, in particular, her mother, father and brother who stood up in the back to cheer her on.

Al Lane, Boyd’s father from Richardson, sends her daily devotional readings encouraging her to continue building her success off of her passions.

“As long as you know inside that you gave 110 percent, then it doesn’t matter what the outcome is if you know you did your very best,” Lane said about some of the words of encouragement he shares with his daughter regularly.

The night ended with an award ceremony for the BioLum team. Other than competing in the next round at the national competition in Miami, they won over $10,000 worth of prizes, including $1,000 cash prize, logo creation, and several mentorships and other programs to keep their business plan moving in a positive direction.

Like most of the businesses that presented in the competition, Allegra will continue to pursue the goals in his business plan in hopes of moving on and up.

“I’ve decided to graduate early and go right into this. It is too good of an opportunity not to strike on,” he said.

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