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April 18, 2012

Outrageous Ideas Take Center Stage

Healthier drinks may soon be on tap at casual fast-food chains, thanks to Philip David Crouse ’12 and Carlos Ayalde Garcia ’12, winners of Columbia’s 2012 A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition.


Healthier drinks may soon be on tap at casual fast-food chains, thanks to Philip David Crouse ’12 and Carlos Ayalde Garcia ’12, winners of Columbia’s 2012 A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition.

The team’s Cup and Compass company would create beverage dispensers to replace traditional soda fountains with healthier, non-carbonated, non-concentrated drinks in fast casual chains like Cosi and Chipotle. Offerings include horchata, made with ground nuts, sesame seeds, rice, or barely, and hibiscus lemonade — drinks that don’t require added water or carbonation. As the first-place winner, Crouse received $7,000 to help put his business plan in motion and is already working with Manhattan chain Dos Toros Taqueria to implement the new dispensers.

“The idea initially was sparked by my love for horchata,” Crouse said. “While exploring avenues to get a natural horchata to the market, we discovered the larger unmet need for natural drinks in the fountain category. The short-term goal is to build our product portfolio and our footprint in the fast casual industry.”

The annual competition is run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization and supported by the School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center. The contest encourages students to explore entrepreneurial ideas ambitious enough in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand about the development and presentation of a business proposal. As part of the competition, students deliver and record 2-minute elevator pitches. This year, 16 student teams competed.

Akshai J. Patel ’13 and Joel Yanof won second place and $4,000 in prize money for DeansList, which helps teachers track and improve student behavior. Third prize winners receiving $1,500 each were BlocPower, founded by Donnel Baird ’13, an organization that helps businesses and churches in underserved communities cut power costs with solar panels, and USA Food Runs by Jason Feirman ’13, a plan to organize charitable runs with stops to eat favorite foods, like the NYC Pizza Run. The Most Outrageous Audience Favorite and a $500 award was given to Royal Flush, a premium mobile toilet provider, the brainchild of Anu Bhaskar ’13, Andrei Dusu ’13, Tom Lundstedt ’13, and Uzo Ometu ’13.

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