University Student’s Team Wins Business Plan Competition
Faith, Execution and Knowing Oneself Keys to Success for Student-run Company
More than 200 professionals recently gathered to honor University of Scranton student Andrew Torba and his business partners as they were named the winners of the 10th Annual Great Valley Business Plan Competition (GVBPC).
This year’s GVBPC awarded $100,000 in cash and in-kind support to two entrepreneurial teams. Those eligible to enter the competition include students from the region’s 14 colleges and universities along with non-collegiate entrepreneurs. After careful deliberation, the judges selected collegiate team Kuhcoon LLC, whose team consisted of Torba, Mike Toma from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and Charles Szymanski from the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Kuhcoon LLC is an interactive social media management and growth service. Their mission is to provide business owners with “an extraordinary social media community,” according to Torba. The company helps brands create valuable social media communities that drive sales by providing them with data-driven strategies and content schedules that increase fan engagement and brand sentiment.
Torba, who will graduate in 2013 from the University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and minors in both entrepreneurship and political science, first learned of the competition through the entrepreneurship program. Having worked on Kuhcoon since October 2011, he immediately recognized the competition as a great opportunity for them to access seed money, office space and valuable NEPA business connections.
“My cofounder, Charles, and I have been best friends since eighth grade. We met Mike, a King’s graduate of the class of 2012, at the Entrepreneurship Institute held at The University of Scranton prior to the business plan competition,” says Torba. “We were looking to expand our executive team and Mike had all the qualities we were searching for. Social media and the Internet make it really easy to work as a team even though we’re all in different locations.”
The GVBPC is designed to stimulate innovative thinking and to leverage a technology-driven economy while retaining the region’s talent. The competition invests in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s greatest asset – its people – and is endorsed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Technology Institute with support from the local chambers of commerce and more than 50 regional businesses.
Kuhcoon is now poised to move forward.
“We just recently moved into our new office in the Scranton Enterprise Center,” said Torba. “We are currently working with dozens of local and national clients – and have even a recently signed rap artist. We’ve raised $40,000 in seed money so far and plan on raising a full Series A funding round so we can scale our product, services and team into the international marketplace. It’s all about execution, which is what we will continue to do as we grow our company.”
His University of Scranton education is very important to Torba, and will continue to be as he and his colleagues build and expand the business. The Moosic native also credits his professors for helping him achieve his goals, saying that their support has made his long days balancing work and school less stressful.
“My philosophy major challenges me to think critically, rhetorically, and analytically with every problem I’m faced with, both in life and business. The entrepreneurship minor has been nothing outside of amazing in terms of the network of influential people I’ve been introduced to, the priceless experience-driven professors and the personal mentorship from some of NEPA’s top entrepreneurs,” Torba said. “My Jesuit education has also helped me appreciate the need for social good in this world. I want that sense of social responsibility to echo through our company.”
Torba is also grateful to the GVBPC for pushing Kuhcoon to the next level and earning them credibility among local business owners. He credits his family for supporting his dream from the idea stage to a now revenue producing company.
As Torba works tirelessly to grow Kuhcoon and looks forward to his senior year at the University, he offers three life lessons he’s learned throughout this process that he will keep with him as he moves forward.
“First, ideas are worthless; execution is everything. Second, know thyself. And finally, have faith,” Torba said. “These three mandates have proved invaluable to Charles, Mike and I and the success of Kuhcoon.”