Sontag team touts diverse perspectives

From left, Alex Wittmann, George Nicholas, Briana Sorochak, Anthony Zunino, and Luis Cupas pose for a picture. Photo by Zoe Wentzel
From left, Alex Wittmann, George Nicholas, Briana Sorochak, Anthony Zunino, and Luis Cupas pose for a picture. Photo by Zoe Wentzel

By Zoe Wentzel

Understanding business isn’t always easy for a group of mechanical engineering majors, which is why senior George Nicholas and his fellow group members enlisted the help of friend and senior marketing student Briana Sorochek to compete in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition.

The competition, created through a $1 million gift by alumnus Rick Sontag to the University of Nevada, Reno, awards $50,000 to one winning team assisting them in starting their business. Throughout the competition, community business leaders offer participants guidance in developing their ideas.

Nicholas and his team’s business concept, which helps the elderly reduce life threatening falls by adding electromagnets to walkers, was first conceived as a part of a capstone course project required of mechanical engineering students. Through their process of designing, building and receiving a patent they decided their idea was good enough to enter the competition.

Knowing they wanted to enter their idea, they knew they needed someone who knew the business side of things. Enlisting the help of Sorochak was an important addition to the group.

“The farther we go through this we’ve realized that almost fifty percent of any kind of business is going to be running the business. The engineering aspect isn’t going to be any more than fifty percent of the work,” Nicholas said.

Group member Anthony Zunino, a senior mechanical engineering major, agreed with Nicholas.

“We definitely get new viewpoints on things; we’re all really technically minded and Bri is really oriented around getting the product out there. She knows how to do that kind of stuff. We know how to make it, she knows how to sell it.”

“We definitely get new viewpoints on things; we’re all really technically minded and Bri is really oriented around getting the product out there. She knows how to do that kind of stuff. We know how to make it, she knows how to sell it,” Zunino said.

Although four of the five group members are from the College of Engineering, senior group member Luis Cupas believes that there is diversity amongst the four despite studying the same discipline.

“We’re mechanical engineers, we know about pretty much all the fields a little bit,” Cupas said. “We know a lot about electrical engineering, we know about thermal dynamics, we know about chemistry. We know a little bit about everything.”

Agreeing, Sorochak reinforced that despite studying the same subject, the four of them represent a mix of personality types.

“I know they took a personality test for their capstone course and two of them are considered introverted and two of them are considered extroverted,” Sorochak said. “We have people that are good working by themselves and can get projects done, and we have two that work on group projects better than others, so we’ve been working together as a group really well.”

Follow the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition on Twitter and Facebook.

Zoe Wentzel is a Reynolds School of Journalism student. She can be reached on Twitter.