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SUNY Potsdam Business Administration Students Compete in 58th Business Plan Competition

September 8, 2023

Three Students win Business Plan Competition, Launched by Dr. Edwin Portugal 30 Years Ago

From left, Wesley Hall ’23, Caroline LaFountain ’23, and Eben Thrasher ’23 (holding the ‘Carbage’) pose for a photo after winning the competition.

Three students from SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Business Administration have won the 58th Annual Business Plan Competition—a tradition started by Dr. Edwin J. Portugal in 1993.

As part Portugal’s capstone course, “Strategic and Global Management,” 16 students were split into five teams and tasked with creating strategic business plans for products of their choosing. Much like an episode of Shark Tank, at the end of the course, students pitched their business ideas to faculty and accomplished entrepreneurs in the community.

“The business plans pull together the students’ understanding of accounting, finance, management, marketing, information systems, legal environment of business, human resource management, and operations management,” said Portugal, who has been a leader in the classroom for the past three decades. “Students experience the stimulation of working in teams, the exhilaration of innovative thinking, the excitement of public speaking, and the challenges of coordinating team members’ unique talents.”

The three winning seniors, Caroline LaFountain ’23, (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), Wesley Hall ’23, (Cold Springs, N.Y.), and Eben Thrasher ’23, (Canton, N.Y.), earned top marks for their “CarBage Buddy,” a dual-purpose garbage bag.

“I am so honored to have been a part of this competition. Over the four years at SUNY Potsdam, I’m proud of the progress that I have made in the business administration program. It also meant so much to me to have my father, who is a successful businessman, present at the competition where I was able to show him all my hard work this semester and over the past years. This was an unforgettable experience,” said LaFountain, the team manager.

The class, and competition, has a similar impact on Thrasher. “This was unforgettable. As an avid watcher of ABC’s Shark Tank, I was elated that I got to pitch my product idea in front of the investors. Throughout the semester, through our hard work and dedication, we formed a strong bond that helped us overcome all challenges we faced. I just wanted to give a shout out to my girlfriend, Nicole Peña, who assisted the sewing of the product. Of course, our dog, Cleo, played a role as well as he was the original inspiration for the ‘CarBage Buddy,’” said Thrasher.

The teams had to write a business proposal, create a prototype of the product, create a PowerPoint presentation, and make a business pitch to external judges in the hopes of convincing them to invest in their business idea. In addition to the winning team’s stuffed animal that doubles as a trash bag, the other teams’ products included an insulated beverage bag for golfers, a multi-use phone case for college students, a dual-purpose candle for women, and a two-tiered umbrella for active couples.

“We spent a lot of late nights working on this project throughout the semester. It was definitely a challenge and we had doubts about the actual pitch to the judges, but after several practice runs, we gained some confidence,” said Thrasher. “I had a great time with the team and was inspired and encouraged by Dr. Portugal all semester long, from whom I feel that I’ve learned a great deal.”

The judges included David Davin, SUNY Potsdam’s VP for Advancement; Dr. Allen Grant, Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies; Dr. Christa Haifley, an associate professor in the Department of Business Administration; Jason LaFountain, the northeast director of Brockway-Smith Company, a $16 billion building materials company where he has worked for 22 years; and Dr. Amanda Ledesma, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Business Administration.

From left (top row) competition judges David Davin, Dr. Allen Grant, Dr. Christa Haifley, Jason LaFountain, and Dr. Amanda Ledesma pose for a photo with, from left (front row) Wesley Hall ’23, Caroline LaFountain ’23, and Eben Thrasher ’23.

SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Business Administration offers flexible bachelor’s and master’s degrees in competitive fields, and provides students with an understanding of how for-profit and non-profit organizations function efficiently and effectively in the global marketplace. The College offers its undergraduate business administration program both at the Potsdam campus and in Watertown, N.Y., at Jefferson Community College. Its Master of Science program in management is offered 100 percent online, to serve graduate students around the world. For more information, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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