UNT student’s search for apartment leads to winning idea
When Brian Ivanchan first started Avant Solutions, he was just trying to pay the rent.
He had just moved to Denton to attend the University of North Texas and lost his job.
“My focus is to get through school,” he said.
But he needed a way to do that.
“One of the challenges I experienced was trying to find an apartment,” Ivanchan said, adding that the information was scattered.
He started building a website that lists all the Denton apartments.
And that’s how Avant Solutions, a creative agency, was formed. He went to Place to Be Properties and began helping the company advertise and revamp its website.
Ivanchan created the Location Icon, a sign for promoting businesses. For Place to Be, he created a red Location Icon with a black dot.
In November, the 27-year-old’s creative agency was named the winner of this year’s New Venture Creation Contest given by the UNT Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship.
He won $20,000 for his business plan. He was given half of the money and will receive the other half after a year if he can demonstrate business success, said Tony Mendes, director of the Murphy Center.
The winners check in with the Murphy Center throughout the year, and mentors help them refine their business strategies, Mendes said.
Ivanchan also has the entrepreneurial energy it takes to be successful, he said.
“The thing about Brian that they [the judges] really liked is that he is already generating revenue,” Mendes said, mentioning the icons Ivanchan already has around town. “He’s got a pretty unique approach to advertising and marketing.”
The judges look for business ideas that are innovative and different, Mendes said.
The seven judges of the contest include UNT faculty, successful entrepreneurs from the Dallas area and individuals who invest in entrepreneurial ventures, Mendes said.
“They really know how to assess the potential for these businesses,” he said.
The New Venture Creation Contest, which was started in 2002, selects three winners along with a business for the social venture award.
It unofficially starts in the spring with the IDEA competition.
For the IDEA competition, Ivanchan submitted his idea of providing a 360-degree virtual tour of the UNT campus for future students, parents and speakers coming to campus.
“I think it will really help students tremendously,” Ivanchan said.
Each of the five winners of that competition was given $250.
During the summer, Ivanchan participated in the Entrepreneurs Boot Camp held at UNT. New Venture Creation Contest participants are not required to attend, but this year’s top two winners attended the boot camp, Mendes said.
The boot camp is opened to students and community members, he said.
About 30 business proposals were submitted to the New Venture Creation Contest, Mendes said.
He said the proposals are evaluated in terms of their ability to articulate a valuable proposition, identify opportunities in the marketplace, assess competitive advantage and potential for customers.
Students develop a business model and a business plan over the summer and submit their final plans to judges in September. The judges narrow down the businesses. This year, 12 students were selected to present their plans Oct. 26. From there, four received awards.
Ivanchan earned first place, Click Clack Short Films earned second, Growin’ Green EcoFarm earned third, and PCS2Prosper earned the social venture award.
Click Clack received $10,000, while Growin’ Green EcoFarm and PCS2Prosper each received $5,000.
The winners are announced each year at the Murphy Center’s Leadership Luncheon. This year, it was held Nov. 9.
Last year’s winner was Forward Tutoring, a high school tutoring business established by Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science students. TAMS is a residential program for high-achieving high school-aged Texas students.
Mendes said Forward Tutoring is on schedule to meet its objectives.
“It’s not just business students winning the competition,” Mendes said. Other majors have entered the competition, including TAMS students. PCS2Prosper was created by TAMS students.
Ivanchan, who is studying business administration with a focus in marketing and journalism with a focus in advertising, plans to continue to build his clientele over the next year as well as begin employing other UNT students.
“I really like to go after things that challenge me,” he said.
He likes to help businesses that are really good at their products but don’t necessarily have the skill set to establish a website and marketing campaign, he said.
Ivanchan said winning this contest will help him keep his business going while he finishes school. He is planning to graduate in the fall of 2013.
“I think what our students are finding is that UNT is very supportive of creative, innovative ideas,” Mendes said. “We’re confident that our students are going to go on to create significant entrepreneurial ventures and contribute to the North Texas Economy.”
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE WEB
Avant Solutions: http://avantsls.com