A store specializing in hockey equipment rentals for youth athletes was the winner of the recent Business Plan Challenge hosted by Dominican University’s Brennan School of Business.

Reminiscent of the television show “Shark Tank,” in which contestants seek investment dollars for their start-up companies, the Business Plan Challenge put five teams of Dominican students before a panel of judges as they pitched proposals for companies they invented. The teams presented start-up costs, financial projections, an explanation of why the business is needed, marketing strategies, and, in some cases, even physical locations inside buildings currently available for rent in the Chicago area.

Season Sports Rentals, developed by Tyler Van Es, Christian Rodriguez and Jose Sanchez, came out on top, taking first place and earning the trio a $2,500 award.

“For the group as a whole it was a fantastic experience,” said Van Es, an accounting and management major who served as the company’s CEO and CFO for the May 2 presentation before five local business leaders who served as judges. “We’re very passionate about the idea and helping families and children who would not otherwise be able to do the activities they are interested in.”

John Harris, president of A5 Inc. in Chicago and one of the competition’s judges, called the team’s proposal “the strongest across the board.”

“They honed in on a good idea and exhibited confidence in the market opportunity and their ability to capture market share,” he said. “The presentation was also complete, the financial projections seemed realistic and they responded beautifully to difficult questions.”

“They were very well-prepared with a very focused business plan,” added fellow judge Darien Marion-Burton, president of the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce. “I’m an entrepreneur as well and I think sometimes when you go into starting a business there are lot of different things you want to do, but they had a focused plan with strong figures to back it up.”

The concept of Season Sports Rentals was developed after Van Es heard stories of families unable to afford the high cost of new sports gear for their children.

“I came up with the idea that they could rent instead of buy in order to break through the financial barrier,” he said.

Because hockey gear is especially costly and because using the right equipment is vital from a safety standpoint, the business plan calls for Season Sports Rentals to specialize in new and gently-used hockey equipment for children ages 8 to 14.

“I learned a lot about teamwork and everybody putting in their respective work,” Van Es said of the experience. “Our project would not have been possible if we didn’t have the different skill sets of our members.”

Teams participating in the Business Plan Challenge each developed their proposals as a class project for Dominican’s entrepreneurship course and were selected by their classmates to advance to the competition.

Businesses proposed by the other four teams included Co-zzz Confections from Michael Mindykowski, Alondra Ballesteros and Candy Mendez, a late-night delivery service of sweet treats; Book Tropolis from Jennifer Medrano, Lexye VarcenasLonden Zachary and Melanie Vega, a textbook reseller aimed at students from Dominican, Concordia University and Triton College; H2Grow from Olivia Remington, Kiara Valenzuela and Gavin Richardson, an initiative using byproducts from fish waste to grow fruits and vegetables in areas with food deserts; and HealthyFix from Ingrid Gonzalez, Rey Alanis and Yuliana Gamboa, a prepared meal delivery service specializing in various ethnic foods.

Making students feel passionate about building a business and providing experiential learning are the goals of the Business Plan Challenge, said Dr. Yuanqing Li, assistant professor of entrepreneurship.

“Sometimes students have a challenge finding internship opportunities and this opens another way for them to think about starting their own business after graduation,” she explained. “That opens another door for them.”

Students have responded positively to participating in the competition.

“I feel they are very excited to have this opportunity,” Li said.

For Van Es, the Business Plan Challenge does not represent the end of his project. He hopes his partners will join him in potentially starting up a sports equipment rental business.

“I would definitely like to see it become a reality,” he said.

(Pictured: Tyler Van Es, Christian Rodriguez and Jose Sanchez meet with one of the judges of Dominican University's Business Plan Challenge on May 2, 2022.)