When Jessica de Pontbriand '03 was a child, she played games of make-believe--as all children do. But her games were perhaps more consistent than most. She always played "restaurant."
When she was older, she worked in restaurants. And when it came time to write a business plan for the 15th annual Paul J. Holloway Jr. Business Plan competition, she drew on her childhood passion.
De Pontbriand envisioned a little cafe named jaja-Belles that would sell Greek pastries, ice cream and coffee. It would be "a place where people can come on a date, or just meet with friends and be happy," she says. The judges were sufficiently impressed by her plan and presentation that they awarded it first place in the lifestyles category and a $4,000 cash prize.
Established by the Holloway family to honor Exeter, N.H., business leader Paul Holloway Jr., the Whittemore School's Holloway Prize competition is among the longest-running of its kind.
A decade ago, Christine Hennessey Henderson '94 won the Holloway prize with her plan for a coffee and ice cream cart outside Dimond Library. The competition, she says, makes students think like entrepreneurs and consider all the business possibilities and practicalities. And, she said, "it shows there is a future in small business."
As a sophomore, she opened The Licker Store, a popular ice cream and coffee shop in Durham, and then expanded it with the award money. Later, she opened a deli in Durham called the Red Onion. She sold both businesses in 2001 to stay home with her two young children for a few years.
Henderson said the competition "really helped me fine-tune the skills that I needed to write a business plan and stay focused--and to write the plan for the next store."
While de Pontbriand does not have immediate plans to open her cafe, she still savors the recognition her plan received. "This was bigger to me than graduation," she says. ~Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents