Left to right, Kevin Cox, Brandon Feinstein and Roland Kidwell celebrate Feinstein’s win at the Business Pitch Competition.
A Florida Atlantic University management major who wants to create a company offering restaurant-quality healthy meals from a vending machine won the $10,000 first prize in the 14th annual Business Pitch Competition held by FAU’s College of Business and the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship.
Brandon Feinstein’s Fit Oven would provide the meals from custom-built vending machines that refrigerate, heat up and dispense the food to the consumer in 90 seconds or less.
Feinstein graduates in May from FAU, but the idea for the company started in 2018, when he was an undergraduate at Florida State University. Living in a campus dormitory with no access to a car, he was left to whet his late-night appetite with sodas, candy and chips from the dorm’s vending machines.
“I weighed over 325 pounds, and my eating habits were terrible,” said Feinstein, now 24. “With all this technology we have, I always wondered, ‘Why are these vending machines outdated?’”
Feinstein later came back home to Boca Raton and enrolled at FAU, where he developed his idea for balanced meals on the go.
He said he will use the prize money to build his venture, working to put the vending machines in airports and universities. He hopes to launch the first vending machine in three to six months, and eventually he wants to franchise the business.
Fit Oven was one of 44 entries in FAU’s annual pitch competition that awards budding entrepreneurs seed money for their business ventures. Because of the pandemic, this was the first year since 2019 that the entire contest was held in-person.
John Thomerson finished in second place and won $5,000 for Pet HealthCare Innovations, a company that makes devices for dogs with mobility impairments. Third place and $2,500 went to SoFlo Cycles, a company created by Jack Wachter to provide motorcycles to riders in Florida and the southeastern United States.
Feinstein and Thomerson, both mentored by the Adams Center’s assistant director Kevin Cox, Ph.D., will represent FAU at e-Fest, a national business competition this week in Minneapolis.
“I was impressed with the number and quality of entries this year,” said Roland Kidwell, Ph.D., director of the Adams Center. “That also resonated with the judges. They definitely can see a lot of entries turning into successful ventures.”
For the first time, the Adams Center included the FAU WAVE and FAU’s Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program (VFEP) contests with the Business Pitch Competition. The three entrepreneurial programs are part of FAU’s Innovation and Business Development.
FAU’s WAVE entrepreneurial contest challenges students to address social issues and provides seed funding for their projects. Rachel Kavalakatt, from the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, won the 2022 Eric H. Shaw FAU WAVE Excellence in Innovation Award of $2,000. She created CarpalWear, a comfortable wristband and ring set that provides real-time biofeedback signals to manage and prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
“Engage Florida,” a group of seven students, earned the community engagement award and $1,000 prize for their idea to improve scientific communication skills in undergraduate students who conduct their own research and present their findings in an accessible way to local schools. Members of the group include: Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College students Shalakha Bonthu, Jose Delgado, Hibah Hussain, Joseph Lawless, Bilal Mutluguler, Matthew Pacheco; and Vineet Reddy from FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.
The $1,500 winner of the VFEP contest’s Eric H. Shaw Entrepreneurial Excellence Award was August Davis, founder of On French, a food preparation and delivery service. Andrea Smith won $1,000 by finishing second with GG by Amara, a company providing personal care products.
Davis and Smith become FAU’s representatives for the statewide pitch competition June 17-18 at the Veterans Florida Virtual Expo in Orlando. Veterans Florida is a nonprofit agency created by the state to help military veterans transition to civilian life and promote Florida’s status as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state. For more information, visit veteransflorida.org.
Shipmonk, a South Florida company started by FAU College of Business graduate Jan Bednar, donated $5,000 for the pitch competition, while Office Depot donated $1,000 for VFEP. In addition to sponsoring the $2,000 WAVE award, Shaw, the Distinguished FAU Professor Emeritus of Marketing, also financed the $1,500 prize money for VFEP by designating the Eric H. Shaw Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, a $50,000 endowment.
“This year’s participants are a testament to the excellence of innovation and talent coming from FAU’s entrepreneurial pipeline,” said Regina Thompson, strategic and economic initiatives manager in FAU’s Division of Research. “These young professionals have many more opportunities awaiting them in their future endeavors.”