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September 11, 2012

Spotlight: Bernard's Winning Presentation

Last May, Marisa Bernard won a giant check worth $1,000. The check was literally large – several feet long – but the public speaking skills she gained were an even bigger reward. These skills have already had a measurable effect on her career.

Bernard, a senior at St. Francis College is on track to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. Her interest in developing her own business led her to enroll in Project Management for Entrepreneurs, taught by Professor Barbara Edington, PMP. This advanced course helps budding entrepreneurs use project management tools and techniques to transform their ideas from a business plan to reality.

Bernard’s first place prize was sponsored through the Capital One Entrepreneur Program, which matches young entrepreneurs with finance experts to craft concepts for small business ventures. Bernard and her fellow students teamed up with bankers from Capital One for individualized mentoring throughout the course. Each student crafted a plan for a new business, then pitched those ideas as if they were applying for a small business loan though the federal Small Business Administration programs. The top three winners each earned seed money to help them get started.

Bernard’s small business idea is to start a computer repair service. She has been fixing computers for years, helping family and friends set-up and repair hardware and install new software. She has also helped her customers recover lost data. Her winning business plan included growing Bernard Tech, Inc. to become an S Corporation with two employees operating out of a leased location.

Bernard and her fellow students had to pitch their idea to judges in a three-to-five-minute speech. That meant Bernard received a crash course in public speaking. Bernard’s mentor was Nicole Moorer, a business banking area manager for Capital One. “She helped me prepare and be more persuasive for the judges,” says Bernard. “The more I did it, the more I felt confident. I felt maybe I could win this.”

Bernard’s new public speaking skills have already helped her extend a summer internship at IBM into a full year. At IBM she now writes code that automates regression testing programs for the buttons and links on IBM’s internal sales systems. She presented the results of her work at the end of summer. Because of her successful presentation, her internship has been extended into a part-time job through her graduation from St. Francis.

“I’ve had to present three or four times,” she says. “Without the project management class I probably wouldn’t be able to do that.” She also continues to grow her computer repair business, which is still operating, for now, out of her home in The Bronx.

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