Meet the winners of the 2024 Mayo Business Plan Competition

Team Golden Connections
Lauren Cunningham, Sangam Shivaprasad, and Emma Route.

Golden Connections, an AI-powered health and wellness digital platform designed to help with the needs of senior citizens and their caregivers, won the first-place prize of $30,000 in the 2024 Mayo Business Plan Competition.

Lauren Cunningham ’24, Emma Route ’25, and Sangam Shivaprasad ’24 developed the digital platform to serve as a bridge between adult caregivers and their aging family members.

The team says an estimated 65 million caregivers of seniors are also working adults, like their own parents. Cunningham shared the story of Sandra — her grandmother, affectionately called Grammy — who lives far from her family but needs help with everyday tasks like remembering appointments. Many of those tasks, she said, fall on her mom.

“We see our parents helping their parents, and we wanted to make that easier for them,” Cunningham, a marketing major, said. Caregivers report insufficient sleep, exhibit chronic stress, and lose productivity due to caregiving responsibilities.

Enter Golden Connections, a user-friendly digital platform that features an AI assistant named Grace that can help seniors with everyday tasks and reminders via customized check-in calls and provide health and wellness insights based on speech biomarker analysis.

“I learned about speech biomarkers at an internship last summer at Johnson & Johnson,” Route, a chemistry major, said. “They’re using these biomarkers in clinical trials for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, so I wanted to incorporate that in our platform so that people can use it in their everyday lives.”

Speech and language biomarkers, such as speech rate, pitch, volume, vibration, and other vocal features, may indicate whether a person is experiencing cognitive changes.

Team Golden Connections
Team Golden Connections, flanked by alumni judges and the interim dean of the School of Business. Photo by Leann Janzekovich ’24

Shivaprasad, a biology major, has been interested in medicine since she was young but recently became curious about business. “The Mayo Business Plan Competition helped me learn that this is something I want to pursue in the future,” she said. “It opened many doors and showed me how to make connections.”

This year, 25 teams competed in the challenge, spending much of the academic year on their projects. Three teams made it to the finals in the Mayo Concert Hall on March 27, where each had 30 minutes to make presentations and respond to questions from a five-person panel of alumni judges.

In all, $60,000 in prize money was awarded. A plan for a trendy and affordable thrift store to serve TCNJ students and the surrounding community was the runner-up, garnering team 2nd Chance $20,000. The third-place team, Girls Got Your Back, designed a location-based app to facilitate mutual assistance among women in a community during times of need and won $10,000 for their plan.

The Mayo Business Plan Competition was established in 2011 through the generosity of finance professor emeritus Herbert B. “Buddy” Mayo. Through the TCNJ Foundation, Mayo established an endowment that supports the competition — one of the most robust in New Jersey.


Team 2nd Chance
Dylan Romanski, Alex Fabiano, and Caley Faith Cortezano

Second Place ($20,000): 2nd Chance by Caley Faith Cortezano ’25, public health; Alex Fabiano ’24, interdisciplinary business; Dylan Romanski ’24, finance. The team pitched a second-hand store that aims to provide students at TCNJ with financially and eco-conscious shopping options with high-quality new and used clothing, furniture, and school supplies.

Team Girls Got Your Back
Tatiana Sawka, Victoria Dasilva, Madilynne Slifer, Olivia Chiarella

Third Place ($10,000): Girls Got Your Back by Olivia Chiarella ’25, communication studies; Victoria Dasilva ’25, finance; Tatiana Sawka ’25, marketing; and Madilynne Slifer ’24, marketing. The team has the vision to create a supportive and empowering digital community for women facing “mini emergencies” in their daily lives (like needing a phone or laptop charger ASAP when you’re in the library studying but forgot to pack your own).


— Emily W. Dodd ’03