SAN ANTONIO – A team of four UIW students were the first to win the New Venture Challenge as their startup company, Sinzuca Chocolates, took the top spot in the competition’s first year.
The New Venture Challenge, hosted by the H-E-B School of Business, offers UIW students with entrepreneurial aspirations the opportunity to hone their ideas as they seek to launch their own businesses. The winning team is awarded $10,000 in seed money to invest in their startup.
Sinzuca Chocolates is the brainchild of second-year pharmacy student Yolanda Martinez, a self-described chocolate connoisseur. Her love of chocolate hit a roadblock when she was diagnosed with diabetes and had to make several lifestyle changes, including what she could eat. Unsatisfied with the options on store shelves, Martinez decided to create her own brand of health-conscious chocolate.
The company manufactures a dark chocolate product infused with superfoods like goji berries, quinoa, flax seed and maca. Other ingredients include pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and bananas. All of the products are gluten free, sugar free and vegan.
Martinez enlisted the help of senior biology majors Mohammed Al-Nasser, Matthew Silvas and Noah Silvas to form the team behind Sinzuca Chocolates.
The competition began in the fall 2018 semester with 21 teams. Each team worked with HEBSBA faculty members and business mentors to fine-tune their business plans and products. Sinzuca and six other teams made it all the way to final presentations in December, where they presented their new ventures to a panel of judges from the San Antonio business community.
“We have learned so much by participating in this competition, especially with none of us being business majors,” Matthew Silvas said. “This competition was rigorous, to say the least, but entrepreneurship is rigorous; starting a business is rigorous. I would encourage anyone thinking about competing in this competition to do so.”
Martinez credits the competition with helping Sinzuca get its start.
“This competition helped our team follow the appropriate steps needed to prepare to begin a business," she said. “The directors of the competition and all the resources at UIW were a great help in guiding us as to what is crucial to begin our business and complete a plan to implement.”
The team plans to use the $10,000 winnings to meet with food scientists and conduct shelf-life testing. A meeting with a lawyer is also planned to learn how to protect the idea behind their products. They are also applying to other business and entrepreneurial competitions to raise capital.