Archive for April 11th, 2011

CUPID’S CUP 2011 – And the Runner-Up is…

April 11th, 2011 by under Education, Everything!. No Comments.

High Life Entertainment & Marketing meets Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank

The lights were bright as I stood alongside my competition. Our time was now, $22,500 hanging in the balance as well as the title of 2011’s Cupid’s Cup winner, and the bearer of the trophy cup. The day started twelve hours earlier, the competition for three months previous. How did I get to this point? How did we outlast a countless number of businesses down to the final two?

Presenting to the Billionaires: Under Armour's Kevin Plank, Comcast-Spectator's Ed Snider, and AOL-Time Warner Steve Case.

I’m normally not one for business competitions. Frankly, it’s hard enough to own and operate a business, have a Graduate Assitanship job, be a full time graduate student, a overtime boyfriend, and have a social life in the process. So, I have never been able to quantify the value add of business competitions. Yet, after a random encounter with 2010’s Cupid’s Cup runner-up Adam Weinblatt (who was attending one of my High Life events because we had just hired his brother to a developmental DJ deal) and a phone call from Alla Corey, the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship’s hidden gem, I felt this opportunity was unlike all others. This competition came with the glitz, glamor and glory that while I freely usually don’t admit wanting, selfishly craved for my business. I saw this competition as an opportunity to showcase my business as one that positioned itself as a necessary aid to bars, clubs and restaurants struggling to survive in our tough economic times, changing people’s lives. Yet, we are often looked at as simple promoters, all negative connotations included. So I signed up for the opportunity educate everyone on who we are.

What did I necessarily sign up for? The Cupid’s Cup Competition is an entrepreneurial showcase of the top young businesses that University of Maryland alumni, undergrad, and graduate students have to offer. Each business entered into the competition has to be a current profitable enterprise and a valid, legit business venture. There are three rounds of cuts throughout the process. The first round of cuts is determined based on an executive summary, followed by a second round of cuts based on a six minute presentation and ten minute questioning by resident angel investors. Of the countless subsmissions, the final five businesses compete at the Cupid’s Cup event in front of a panel of billionares.

This year, the daunting task in front of me was handling the founder of Under Armour and sponsor of the event, 1996 Maryland Alum Kevin Plank, or as I like to call him billionaire #1. Along with Plank, was fellow Maryland Alums and billionaires Steve Case, Founder of AOL-Time Warner, and Ed Snider, Founder of Comcast Spectator and the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. If three billionares wasn’t enough to rattle my cage, my private presentation and questioning would also include current venture capitalists and angel investors of the lowly millionaire variety. No biggie…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Cupid’s Cup competition is a long day. Each competitor must set up a business booth and present their companies and shmooze with attendess in hopes of gaining the People’s Choice Award and the $2500 that comes with it. My High Life Entertainment booth was clad with my banner above, two television screens showing video and photo montages of our events, our patented “Be A VIP” package raffle, complimentary admission passes, and other informational info sheets. Every minute for hours my staff and I were explaining how we were the premier consulting firm for the service industry and handling the peppering of questions about our business. I next was faced with the private 6-minute business pitch about High Life in front of the guest billionaire and millionaire judges. My presentation was centered on our current success and scalability plan for future growth. Throughout this experience, I was being filmed the entire time being asked how nervous I was, and frankly I was fine until UMDTV began badgering me with questions! In attempts to re-create an American Idle type experience, I was followed and interviewed throughout the entire process, purposely put under hot lights and annoyed. My focus was on my presentation, professionalism and company future, yet I had these nats all over me attempting to amp up the stress…and they did achieve a decent level of success. That said, when game time came, I squashed those nats on the nearest table and gave High Life it’s proper showcase.

As an aside, I must say, I have been interviewed by many a millionaire in my day. I also have, as a beat reporter for ESPN Radio, interviewed many a millionaire and powerful person. That said, the nerves associated with attempting to impress a host of successful, powerful entrepreneurial billionares, with the subject of my presentation being my baby, my business that I am passionate about, puts this competition on a whole new level on the anxiety meter. I have never felt the nerves as I did while presenting for this elite group of individuals.

Presenting to the room for the opportunity to be Cupid's Cup 2011 Winner!

But I wowed them and I knew it. While the day was far from over and I had no idea of what was to come, I knew I put my best foot forward in my private presentation. So when we took our seats for the big moment on stage to listen to all the speakers and other local business competition winners, I had no idea that I was moments away from being called on stage to present one more time…in front of 1,000 people, but did feel confident with my performance so far.

The final stage of this competition pits the two finalists, and the only two money winners, against each other one last time. So there I was, on stage, with a defective slide clicker presenting again for everyone to see, yet this time the nerves were different. This time it was a moment of pride, an opportunity to boast of my company’s successes, a time to show the world of all the positive things we do to help our entrire industry day in and day out. It was my moment in the sun I wanted for my business, the reason I entered this competition and worked as hard as I did. And it was glorious!

I finished second in the competition, netting $7,500 in prize money and a priceless amount of confidence and knowledge. After being presented with my mammoth check and congratulated by Kevin Plank, our Dean Anand, and countless others I resepct and look up to, I truly felt that I was a peer of these successful persons. Very few moments in your life alter the way you view your current life position, but Cupid’s Cup provided me with such a moment and whileI didn’t bring home the big trophy (and trust me when I say, I was in it to win it people!), what I gained from the experience was invaluable.

The Big Check! High Life received the Runner-Up place and here I was accepting the check with Dean Anand.

Special thanks to all my Smith School classmates who came to support and my High Life Team, your support was warming and felt throughout. Also, to Marc Terada, who helped me with my slide show!