September 10, 2008

Cross Country's Mike Petro, classmates become entrepreneurs


"When is the last time I had a good experience with..." was the phrase cross country runner Mike Petro and his team of Case Western Reserve University students used to get their minds thinking in a business start up direction recently. And, after edible forks and the breeding of miniature hippopotamuses were rightfully removed from the table, a trip to the grocery store sealed the deal for the Entrepreneurship Educational Consortium winners.

The Entrepreneurship Educational Consortium business concept contest, held recently at John Carroll University, challenged participants from seven area schools to come up with a business concept that would keep money in the local economy and grow to be profitable.

"(The judges) did not want the full gory details of a business plan," Petro explained. "The idea was to just show it's feasible and that we could make money."

Team Case's idea was a high tech coupon card. Their prize for first place was $4,000.

"Someone said 'you know I hate coupons, is there a way you can make it easier to use them?'," Petro explained. "So we went to Giant Eagle and walked around asking customers if they would be interested in a card that you could put all your coupons on."

The group made up of Petro, a biomedical engineering major, and business majors Magda Marcel, Michael Benning, Sean Detwiler and Aaron Myhre then returned to their meeting place and started pondering concerns. Shoppers were interested, but it wouldn't matter if the group couldn't get buy-in from grocery stores and manufacturers.

The young entrepreneurs did not want to get too far into the details as they hope to pursue their business concept, but the general thinking is a computer program and card that would eliminate paper coupons—and paper cuts—as well as overstuffed coupon drawers and organizers. The stores and manufacturers would benefit by not having to ship used coupons back and forth to multiple counting agencies.

"We thought the more digital we could make this, the less cost and time there will be for handling and processing," Petro said. "We have a win-win-win solution for shoppers, grocery stores and manufacturers."

But is going through the Sunday newspaper and clipping coupons one of America's favorite hobbies? "Cutting coupons is not the hobby, saving money is," Petro explained. "My mom cuts coupons and I remember cutting them with her when I was little. It was a pain–it wasn't fun."

Running long distance most would say is painful and no fun as well, but for Petro is has been a huge part of his life. The three-time team captain of the Spartans' cross country team and multiple University Athletic Association (UAA) All-Academic honoree was a spot or two away from qualifying for the NCAA Championships last year and making the NCAA meet was and is the team's goal.

"Last year there might have been too much hype surrounding us trying to make it to nationals as a team," Petro said. "Things obviously did not work out our way. This year it is an unspoken goal, we know what we need to get done and we are going to do it."

The Case Western Reserve men got off to a good start. They won the eighth annual Bill Sudeck Classic in their first meet of the season Saturday at The Farm for the first time since 2003. They return to action September 20 at Calvin College.

Two for Two

Read the story about last year's winning group, Fresh Fork Market, also from Case Western Reserve.

For more information contact Creg Jantz, 216.368.6517.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, September 10, 2008 08:20 AM | News Topics: Athletics, Awards, Case School of Engineering, Collaborations/Partnerships, Students, Technology, Weatherhead School of Management

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