SJU senior goes to the dogs to get his winning idea

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March 26, 2019

By Mike Killeen

Rego Winners

The top three place-finishers in the 2019 Eric Rego Big Idea Competition were (from left) second-place winner Bardia Bijani, champion Charlie Miner and third-place finisher Clarke Andrews. Photo by Elena Anderla ’21.

Charlie Miner has a little secret he wants to share.

The Saint John’s University senior does an on-demand dog-walking service in his hometown of Minneapolis.

But like all good things, he turned that service into a new idea. Instead of requesting a walk for Fido, he wondered if an app could summon a service provider to a home to mow lawns, shovel snow or pick up leaves.

That idea, which he called the Snow Buddy, earned first-place and $500 cash in the 11th annual Eric Rego Big Idea Competition March 13 at the Gorecki Family Theater at the College of Saint Benedict.

The event is named in honor of Eric Rego ’06, who was a member of the first Entrepreneur Scholars cohort from the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship. Rego, who passed away in 2008, was known for developing ideas.

“I kind of had inspiration through (the dog-walking service), and I was familiar with how that platform works being a provider,” said Miner, a global business leadership major who graduated from Southwest High School. “So I thought what about combining the two – home services and on-demand services together?

“I did some research, and there are similar apps to that, but they don’t necessarily offer all the services in a very easy, attainable way to access them,” Miner continued. “So I thought how could we streamline the process and make it a little easier for the user?”

His app would allow a homeowner to send out an alert to service providers. The providers would respond and let you know when they could be there.

“With contractor services, you usually have to have (an appointment) scheduled ahead in advance,” Miner said. “It could be 10 p.m., and you need someone to come and shovel your driveway. You’d open the app and they’d be there. Not many contracting services will do that. The price would be a lot cheaper compared to contracting services because there’s no equipment, it’s just the individual’s own equipment, or they’d be using the (customer’s) equipment.

Although Miner has a job lined up as a business development representative with Sovos Compliance in Minnetonka, Minnesota, following graduation in May, he said he would consider turning his idea into reality if feasible.

“Being an entrepreneur, being in charge of your own company, is definitely something that is attractive to me. It’s very daunting and definitely a difficult process – I’m aware of that being a global business leadership major,” he said. “But I’ve always enjoyed leadership and self-teaching, so it would be something that I’m interested in doing if it would work out.”

A total of 140 video entries were originally submitted to the competition, easily topping last year’s total of 112 submissions. In the videos, students had between 15 to 30 seconds to pitch an idea for a business venture.

From that group, 10 students were selected as finalists to present a 90-second pitch in front of a live audience, a panel of four celebrity panelists and eight hidden judges scattered throughout the audience. The judges scored each of the 10 students, and five students advanced to a question-and-answer session with the celebrity judges.

“I don’t mind public speaking. It’s something I like to do,” Miner said. “But I’ve never been in front of 200, 250 people audience members on stage, so that was new to me.”

So where the judges’ questions. “I’d like to say I’m good on my feet when it comes to thinking about questions, or responding to questions. That was definitely helpful. Still, it was very nerve-racking not knowing what was coming next,” Miner said.

SJU junior Bardia Bijani placed second and earned $300 for his idea called the Pick-N-Watch. Third-place and $200 went to SJU junior Clarke Andrews for his pitch on the Track Star.

Miner said it was well worth it to compete in the Eric Rego Big Idea Competition for any major at CSB and SJU.

“What I learned from it was to push myself. Don’t be afraid. It was definitely something out of my comfort zone, but after I got selected I pushed myself to do it,” Miner said. “It was worth it. I think once you do something like that, it really inspires you to look for the next big thing.”