Ideas for Sale

By Lynn Freehill | Spring 2013

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At a fair, the first spot inside the entrance is just as desirable as a corner office is at a corporation. And on April 19 at Notre Dame’s Stayer Center for Executive Education, Frameri Eyeglass Co. was going to use it.

Professors, students, entrepreneurs, NFL players, and even high-profile executives like Sprint CEO Daniel Hesse (’75) kept walking through the door. The members of the Frameri team—wearing sleek, retro-fab eyeglasses like a uniform—kept snagging their attention.

The four MBA students then shared their big idea: one set of prescription lenses that could be snapped into any number of different, well-priced Frameri frames.

Frameri was among 44 teams participating in the Venture Fair sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship. The fair was part of the final event weekend for the annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition. Set up like a science fair, the late-morning mingle allowed would-be entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to potential backers.

Products being explained around the room were as simple as lemonade and whiskey, and as complex as natural gas outfitters and nursing-home health rooms. As at any fair from elementary school on up, tables offering eye-catching graphics and free goodies drew crowds.

Frameri spread a Mexican blanket on its table, placed a dish of candy in the corner, and topped things off with a laser-cut whiteboard console that team member Konrad Billetz (MBA ’13) built for $30. iPads slid in to give it a high-tech look.

In the end, the crowd voted Frameri Best Presentation among graduate teams. Green Energy Zambia won among undergraduates. Each won $1,000.

Denver Broncos player David Bruton (’09) asked the MBA students smart questions about their team and their marketing plan. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said of the concept. “It’s a lot more convenient and cost-friendly. I would definitely consider investing—or at least buying [the glasses].”

Over at the Indiana Whiskey Co. booth, Braden Weldy (MBA ’14) was pouring souvenir glasses of sample whiskey. (Granted, it wasn’t the company’s own yet, but chosen as similar to what the company will produce when its distillery begins operations within days.)

Weldy was thrilled to be chatting with this especially savvy crowd. The NFL players, who were on campus for a four-day program on entrepreneurship, were among his favorites. “They were asking perfect questions, like ‘What’s your market size?’” he said. “While I’m going to campus, going to class, and learning all this academic stuff, what I really love is applying it.”