Sunday, July 21, 2024

Marathon madness

Eleven college teams and four high school teams took part in the fourth-annual Free Enterprise Marathon held at Plattsburgh State.

PSUC students Kevin Clayton, John Asare, Ashanti Heyward, Majorie Antoniou and George Grigolava formed the PSUC team at the competition, which was held March 4 in the Alumni Conference Room and Cardinal Lounge.

The competition’s purpose is “to encourage students to become better informed about the importance of free enterprise and to encourage and reward students’ creativity and innovativeness,” PSUC Chair of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and event organizer Nancy Church said.

Heyward, a junior English language arts and marketing major, put the team together after being inspired by a similar event in the United Kingdom. He said he loved being involved in the event and when he noticed PSUC had the free enterprise marathon, it was a “no-brainer” for him to get involved.

The marathon features two parts: the Free Enterprise Speak Off and Team Creativity and Innovation Competition.

Schools hoping to participate must sign and submit a “commitment to participate” form in the fall semester before the marathon. PSUC chose that as the deadline so there is a clear understanding of how many students can be expected to attend.

Each participating school chose their speak-off competitor prior to the enterprise marathon at PSUC. Each potential participant is required to give a speech at his or her respective school following the prompt: “Free Enterprise: Problems I Would Solve as a Social Entrepreneur.” The school then chooses a winner, who is awarded $100, to send to PSUC’s marathon.

PSUC’s speak-off participant was Clayton. He is an entrepreneurship, business administration, international business and political science quadruple major.

This is Clayton’s fourth time participating in the marathon. He took his first award last year.

This year, PSUC did not place in the team challenge, but Clayton received third place in the speak-off competition, winning $300.

Clayton said the competition helps apply concepts that are learned in a classroom and gives students a deeper understanding of them.

For the Team Creativity and Innovation challenge, students are presented with a challenge in order to develop an innovative business plan. The students participating are given their situation the day of the competition and work for approximately three hours to come up with their solution. It is then presented to the judges.

Church said the creativity of the students, given just a three-hour time frame, is “pretty incredible.”

This year teams were asked to create a new menu item for McDonald’s that would appeal to millennials. The teams were required to only use existing ingredients offered by the fast-food chain, but they were allowed to introduce one new item as well.

Grigolava, a global supply chain management major, said the most common new ingredient used among the groups was guacamole.

PSUC’s team developed an item called the “McMedley,” a wrap that included bacon, chicken, kale and any other personalized items.

As for the group presentations, Heyward said PSUC’s was smooth and in chronological order. Grigolava said every group member was prepared when it was his or her turn to speak, but overall, their presentation could have been more “polished.”

“I don’t learn much from winning, but I learned a lot from losing,” Heyward said.

Heyward also called the competition a learning experience, especially on how to motivate others and use other’s skills to their full potential.

“They do a better job speaking than I could. They don’t use notes, many of the students, they just stand there, and they don’t stand behind the podium. They’re out there in front with their hands and with so much energy,” Church said of the group presentations.

Grigolava said he initially joined the competition to experience a professional environment, to learn to improvise and think on his feet.

“We were listing out our personal assets as a group, and I know my strong point was public speaking,” Grigolava said. “I’m like the human morphbox. I really think outside the box in terms of innovation and changing product and things like that.”

Heyward said the competition has helped him to think quickly and work with others.

Grigolava and Heyward both said they would consider competing in next year’s competition.

The winners for this year’s college Speak Off are Brian Dailey of SUNY Adirondack, Willis Reid Breyette of Saint Michael’s College, Kevin Clayton of PSUC, James Waller of Hudson Valley Community College and Peter Silverman of University of Vermont. The winners were awarded $700, $500, $300, $150 and $75, respectively.

The team collaboration college winners are SUNY Adirondack, Hudson Valley Community College, Saint Michael’s College and Clarkson University. Teams were respectively awarded $800, $600, $400 and $200.

Email Marissa Russo at

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