Supporting Entrepreneurship Through the University of Miami’s Business School

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Dominic Natalizio wins the 2019 University of Miami Business Plan Competition

The Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation is a proud sponsor of the Miami Herbert Business School’s annual Business Plan Competition. In 2017, the Foundation established the Business Plan Competition Endowed Fund, which will fund the endeavor for decades to come. Open to all University of Miami students and recent alumni, the competition awards almost $50,000 in prize money every year to help budding entrepreneurs get both the feedback and funds they need to turn their ideas into a real business. We spoke to 2019 alumni track winner Dominic Natalizio about how the competition enabled him to jumpstart MANTRA, an eco-friendly menswear brand.

When Dominic Natalizio entered the 2019 University of Miami Business Plan Competition, he had a lot of big dreams, but needed help translating them into reality.

“I didn’t have a fully formed idea,” said Natalizio of the spark of inspiration that eventually became MANTRA, a sustainable clothing brand based in his adopted city of San Francisco. “I knew what I wanted to do with the product, but I had yet to think through the logistics of the business—I had no idea how much I’d need to spend on production or marketing, or even how much I’d be selling things for.”

A 2015 graduate of the University of Miami School of Business, Natalizio was working as a senior strategy associate at Lyft when he came up with the concept for MANTRA. Natalizio is a passionate advocate for the environment, and he was having trouble finding men’s clothing that was comfortable enough to wear every day, stylish enough to rock at work and produced by a brand that actually cared about sustainability. So he decided to build one himself.

“I wanted to make something that both helped connect people with nature and actively worked to protect it,” said Natalizio.

With the help of cofounder Ashley Revay, Natalizio set to work developing a men’s polo made from melted-down plastic bottles. The resulting repurposed polyester is knit into a breathable, lightweight and sweat-proof fabric, which has the same properties as virgin polyester performance clothing. Armed with just a prototype, he set to work developing an application for the Business Plan Competition.

“The University encourages participants to submit a business concept, even if they aren’t sure where it will lead,” he said. “The whole process is amazing. They assign you a mentor in your field, who does a great job of driving you to take it seriously and really flesh out a real business opportunity.”

During each round, Natalizio was prompted by the judges and his assigned mentor to further refine his plan, and as the process went on, a compelling business opportunity emerged. Eventually, the judges were impressed enough with Natalizio’s vision for MANTRA that he was awarded the Grand Prize for the Alumni track.

Nearly a year later, and business is booming at MANTRA. 

“When I applied for the competition, MANTRA was just a PowerPoint presentation,” said Natalizio. “Now people are wearing it.”

The company plans to expand its offerings—currently consisting of a stylish polo in six fresh patterns—to include a t-shirt and pullover made of eco-friendly materials.

“For anyone considering applying, I say go for it,” said Natalizio of the 2020 Business Plan Competition, which has a deadline for written plans of Tuesday, March 17. “Even if you don’t feel like you have a groundbreaking idea, the process of putting something down on paper and going through the steps can help you turn a concept into a real business. You will learn so much, and even if your original idea goes nowhere, when that next opportunity presents itself, you’ll be armed with the knowledge of what to do next.”

MANTRA has repurposed over 5,000 plastic bottles into premium apparel to date. Learn more about the gear and the company’s commitment to sustainability at madebymantra.co, or on Instagram @madebymantra.

To learn more about the University of Miami Business Plan Competition, or to apply to join this year’s cohort, visit: https://www.bus.miami.edu/our-perspective/areas-of-excellence/entrepreneurship/business-plan-competition/index.html


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