Alum challenges young entrepreneurs

By Joyce Shelfo
Published Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Thanks to a generous gift from Jeremy Office ’11 of Delray Beach, students in Lynn’s College of Business and Management benefit from the Howard Isaacson Innovation Challenge, named after Office’s late grandfather to honor their mutual love of entrepreneurship.

Now in its third year, the challenge provides students with an experiential learning opportunity to develop an innovative idea for a new product or business, research the viability of that idea, talk with potential customers and then “pitch” (think Shark Tank) the idea in a presentation to Office and a team of experienced, entrepreneurial-minded professionals in the local business community.

“This country was founded by risk takers, and at the core of an entrepreneur is their ability to assume risk,” says Office.  “I believe that the last great competitive advantage we have as a nation is our entrepreneurial disposition, and it is my hope that the Howard Isaacson Innovation Challenge continues to increase that advantage.”

Max Vanderploeg, Class of 2017, was the 2014 first place winner of the challenge. His idea, AutoPark, is a self-sustaining robotic parking structure that revolutionizes the use of conventional concrete lots by using a “stacking method” to free up lost or congested land.

“Winning the Howard Isaacson Challenge meant more to me than words can illustrate. It instilled self-worth, self-motivation and inspired me to push myself,” says Vanderploeg. “I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur, having started my first legitimate LLC without the assistance of my parents when I was 16. This competition confirmed my thoughts as genuine.”

“Jeremy, who sits on the board of advisors for the College of Business and Management, has truly gone above and beyond in the role and has hired our interns, lectured in classes and spoken at our CEO Lecture Series, says President Kevin M. Ross.“ His generous financial support for this challenge, along with the mentoring and attention he has given to innumerable students, have been priceless.”

According to Brian Sommer, assistant professor and overseer of the challenge, “The 2014-15 challenge has been expanded so that the winner has the opportunity to select, or be assigned, a mentor/investor to assist in commercializing the venture. Judging also will be expanded to include media and celebrity guest judges.”

Office, who received his Ph.D. in global leadership from Lynn University in 2011, is the principal at Maclendon Wealth Management in Delray Beach, where he specializes in essential financial planning and provides business owners guidance on more complex, entrepreneur-specific issues such as raising capital, cash flow modeling, acquisitions and divestitures and restructuring.  He also is managing partner of SJO Worldwide, a venture capital company that invests in early stage companies with revenue, primarily in the technology and retail sectors.


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