Digital marketing company wins first prize in Gillespie competition

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Digital marketing company wins first prize in Gillespie competition

Claire Ficek, winner of the 19th Annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition, receives congratulations from her peers. Ficek, a sophomore from Maple Plain, Minnesota, is the founder and CEO of Altar’d Socials, a social media platform designed to improve corporate social media initiatives. Photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Mississippi – A social media marketing company that uses a five-task plan to effectively manage digital marketing ranked first in 2023 Gillespie Business Plan Contest In the University of Mississippi.

Altar’d Socials, founded by Claire Ficek, a sophomore in integrated marketing and communications from Maple Plain, Minnesota, was declared the overall winner of the annual competition. Her company oversees website administration, content creation and engagement on social media apps, and email marketing for her clients.

“I feel blessed to be part of such a great organization as this Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and have the opportunities they offer to students,” said Ficek. “The Gillespie Business Plan Contest was just one example of adults in our community coming together to support us as students.”

Ficek won $15,000 for her company, as well as a year’s worth of office space at Insight Park. She was named a Seibels Scholar, which earned her an additional $5,000.

“Claire Ficek delivered great presentations for her post-revenue venture, Altar’d Socials, which led to her win,” said Clay Dibrell, co-director of the CIE. “We expect great things from her and the other Ole Miss student entrepreneurs in the future.”

The winner of second place in the competition was iOS Launch, a service offering software development for small businesses and startups. The company received $5,000. This service was founded by Senior Carson Zylicz, an accounting and finance major from Sugar Land, Texas.

This service allows small businesses and startups to customize mobile app templates to compete with larger organizations. One of Zylicz’s apps provided software for the 2022 Gillespie Business Competition winner, the Rumie App.

Other finalists included SellVNTG LLC, Up4Grabs, Navigator Medical and Abbikadabbi’s Baking Co. Each of these companies competed in the final round and received $1,250.

The CIE supports students in the creation and implementation of business plans and ideas and organizes the business plan competition every year.

“The Gillespie Business Plan Contest is the culmination of our Ole Miss student entrepreneurs participating in their ventures through our CIE student competitions, entrepreneurship majors and minors, as well as individual collaborations with our faculty, campus, and virtual mentors, as well as Other support for student entrepreneurship is working with groups like the Innovation Hub at Insight Park and the Rebel Venture Capital Fund,” Dibrell said.

Several students also received special Gillespie awards:

  • Navigator Medical was recognized by the Flowood Community Bank with the $5,000 Thomas W. Colbert Community Bank Innovation Award.
  • Abbikadabbi’s Baking Co. received the $5,000 GenTeal Apparel Consumer-Facing Award, funded by Oxford-based GenTeal.
  • LeaseSavvy received the $5,000 Lynn and Ron Samuels Student Entrepreneur Award, donated by Lynn and Ron Samuels of Nashville, Tennessee.
  • The Big Sis Organization LLC received the $5,000 Stephen E. Rowell Entrepreneur Award, donated by Stephen Rowell of Brandon.
  • Moose Medical was recognized with the $2,500 Edward G. Francis Sr. Entrepreneur Award provided by Edward Francis Sr. of Denver.
  • FAX received the Most Improved Business Award for $2,500.

“This year’s Gillespie Business Plan Contest raised a record total of $50,000 from students,” said Ken Cyree, Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration. “This is an amazing success story and demonstrates the dedication of our faculty and staff, as well as the dedication of our alumni, to funding these burgeoning entrepreneurs.”

The $1,000 Landshark Tank Video Pitch first prize went to The Big Sis Organization LLC; $500 second prize to SOLIEX; and the $300 third prize went to Sassy Workwear.

“This year’s Gillespie reached a record total of 47 entries and showcased more developed companies and more polished presentations since COVID, which is really exciting and encouraging,” said Tong Meng, CIE program director. “Without the generous support of our mentors, particularly Owens Alexander, Anne Mathis, Bill Andrews, Bill Mobley and Dr. Josie Burks, we could not have achieved this.”

The final round of judges were: Troy Drewry, Professor of Practice in Biomedical Engineering; Jan Farrington, former executive director of Medical Support and Development Organization Inc.; Lawrence Farrington, Member of the Board of Directors of mTrade Inc.; Liza Cirlot Looser, CEO of Cirlot Agency; Rick Looser, COO and President of The Cirlot Agency; Lois Lovelady-Rayburn, co-founder, president and chief revenue officer of mTrade; Matt Mossberg, Managing Partner of West Group and Steve Rowell, President and Owner of Flagstar Construction.

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