Future Super Bowl winners could have Jenna DeLetto to thank for their victories.
The Salisbury University junior finance major from Long Island, NY, was the winner of this year’s $10,000 Bernstein Achievement Award for Excellence, presented during SU’s 2015 student Entrepreneurship Competitions. Her product, 5 POP, is a football training device programmed to signal players when they are carrying the ball improperly.
Developed with her grandfather, the football uses patented technology to sound an alarm when players carrying it do not correctly use the recommended five points of pressure (or POP): fingers, palm, forearm, bicep and torso.
The idea came to DeLetto while training with a strength and conditioning coach at Penn State University. He told her most athletes do not use the proper form in their sports, but make up for it in athletic prowess. Those combining the two could go even farther.
“Athletes are extremely competitive and are always looking for that one thing that will give them an edge,” the SU women’s soccer player and former high school track and field champion said.
A coach with Penn State’s football program was impressed by the prototype, tested during the 2014 season by players at Easton Area High School in Pennsylvania.
“The first thing he said was, ‘How much does it cost, where can I buy it, and can I have 10 more right now?” DeLetto said.
Even if the product was ready to go to market, the request would have left her nine short; her prototype is the only one in existence. She plans to use her competition winnings ($27,000 overall in cash and services) to help cover a portion of the $30,000-$40,000 she estimates a mold that could produce up to seven of the devices at once would cost.
Using the molds will make the trainer lighter so its weight is more in line with that of an actual football. She also plans to explore the possibility of adding Bluetooth technology. This would allow the device not only to alert players of improper carries, but to record data such as yards gained and time of possession.
DeLetto already has heard from Under Armour, which is interested in taking control of the product in exchange for a royalty on sales. Though she is not closing any doors at this time, her preference is to produce and retail the device herself.
Once testing is completed and the product is ready to go to market, she envisions selling enough to begin making a profit within two months. The initial market would be individuals and college and high school teams, though further expansion could include a smaller model for younger players such as those in Pop Warner leagues.
Placing second in the Bernstein competition, winning $10,000 in cash and in-kind services, plus $3,250 from earlier rounds, was ConnectU, a social media marketing and event planning firm conceptualized by students Dylan Anderson, Matt Greene, Rachel Lanza and Heidi Schimoler.
Bernstein honorable mentions included Delmarva Sports Services, a sports league management franchising business created by Adam Manning and Jamie Lowe; and Thor Electric Longboards, a company envisioned by Nick Giambra, Vincent Guilana, Jamie Leroy and Ian Nolan to manufacture and retail after-market motors for longboard skateboards. They received $5,000 in funding and in-kind services during the Bernstein round, plus an additional $3,250 and $1,000 from earlier rounds.
Some 29 teams began the day vying for $15,000 in prizes during an “Invest in My Idea” poster contest. Fifteen advanced to the “Gull Cage,” a Shark Tank-like elevator pitch competition. From there, the four finalists were selected to compete for the day’s top prize, the Bernstein Award.
Beyond those four, the “Invest in My Idea winners, receiving $1,000 each, included:
- J&E Solutions – Jonathan Aiken;
- Markt Advertising: Game Up – Imoloeayo Alabi and Brendan Guihan;
- IPPS Mentoring – Stefan Antony and Robert Williams;
- Home Care Robotics – Robert Close and William Tippet;
- Option Optics, LLC – Fee Hurko and Eric Rubinstein;
- RSVP – Aakash Patel;
- Candy’s Crafting Clubhouse – Candace Radcliff;
- CANduit – Kristopher Roussey, Eric Church and Matthew Ferguson;
- Clean Air Filtration, LLC – Jeffrey Tabor;
- Theatre on the Shore – Mary-Tyler Upshaw and Lacy Hudson; and
- The Clean Stroke – Gregory Whitcraft, Lauren Falkenberg and Tommy Clark.
During the final awards ceremony, the local business leaders who volunteered their time as judges praised the students’ efforts:
“It never ceases to amaze me what they can come up with,” said Sandy Fitzgerald-Angello of Pohanka Automotive Group.
“Regardless of what happens today, you all have great futures in front of you,” Katherine Kiernan of APPI Energy told the assembled students.
“You worked for a long time to get here, and your success is showing,” said Kevin Bernstein of LWRC International, LLC, whose father, Richard, established the Bernstein Award in 1987.
“The quality of presentations was truly outstanding,” added Mike Cottingham of Rommel Holdings.
“Whether you move forward with your own business or decide to go into the corporate world, you are light years ahead of many of your peers,” said George Koste of Maryland Capital Enterprises.
William Burke, SU director of entrepreneurship competitions, stressed that though the monetary and in-kind services the winners received were important, they were not the only prizes participating students may ultimately win.
“You can catch the attention of a judge who wants to invest in your product, or you can demonstrate those skills to these members of the business community who are looking to hire the best and the brightest with the exact talents you demonstrated to them today,” he said.
This year’s Entrepreneurship Competitions, open to all SU students, were part of the campus’ inaugural Entrepreneurship Week, which also featured the University’s semiannual Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery startup funding competition and, in connection with 47 ABC, a casting call for the ABC-TV hit series Shark Tank.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.