On the evening of Wednesday, April 15, LifeBridge Community Services hosted its first annual fundraising event in the Schelfhaudt Gallery of the Arnold Bernhard Center. The event, entitled “Shark University,” is a take off on the TV show “Shark Tank,” and empowered business students with the opportunity to sell their business ideas to a panel of experienced investors. More than 60 attended the competition, with two teams each from the University of Bridgeport and Fairfield University stepping up to the plate.

The mission of LifeBridge Community Services, a nonprofit organization in Bridgeport, is to“inspire and empower our clients by linking comprehensive programs to strengthen personal capability, develop skills, and build pathways to economic self-sufficiency.”Toward this end, “Shark University” was a huge hit.

“This was an excellent opportunity for our students to learn firsthand what it takes to put together a business plan and pitch it to a group of experienced investors in front of a live audience,” said Lloyd Gibson, Dean of the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business. “The students received valuable feedback from the judges which they will benefit from for years to come in their future endeavors.”

The evening began with a networking reception, a greeting from Mary-Jane Foster, Vice President of University Relations at UB, and a kick-off address by Bill Hass, President and CEO of LifeBridge Community Services. The four teams – Argan Naturelle and EcoHotels, LLC from the University of Bridgeport and Africa Requests and Assimilation Integration from Fairfield University – then made their presentations, with Steve Finnegan as Moderator.

The entrepreneurial teams were judged on the following:

  • Product or Service: Do you know what it is and what it does? Compelling value proposition or problem solution?
  • Competitive Analysis: How does it compare to alternatives?
  • Market Size: Size of market niche substantiated?
  • Customer Demand Validated: at project selling price?
  • Sales Plan: Realistic, adequate to meet projections?
  • Business Model: Can you tell how the company will make money? Do you think they will?
  • Management: Professionalism of presentation: Knowledgeable, convincing, polished speaker.
  • Funding: Were capital needs clear? Realistic for stage? Do you know how capital will be used? How it will create success?

The Event Sponsors included:

  • Anonymous (2)
  • Berchem, Moses & Devlin
  • Bigelow, LLC
  • Cohesive Capital Partners
  • The Ganim Group
  • Marian Howley
  • LifeBridge Junior Advisory Board
  • People’s United Bank
  • The Trischman Group at Morgan Stanley