Microsoft Announces Finalists in Nationwide Search for Most Innovative Small-Business Idea

NEW YORK — March 5, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the four finalists in the Ultimate Challenge contest, the nationwide search for the best small-business idea in America.

The Ultimate Challenge kicked off in New York City last fall and nearly 5,000 entrepreneurs from across the country entered with a wide array of innovative ideas. The contest, along with the launch of Microsoft® Office Accounting Express 2007, spurred the imagination of aspiring small-business owners. Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 is Microsoft’s free financial management software for home-based and newly formed small businesses.

With over 1 million downloads to date, Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 is available as a free download at Microsoft created this campaign and contest to show its commitment to helping small businesses and demonstrate its belief that everyone has a great business idea inside waiting to happen; all that’s needed are the right tools.

“We were so inspired by the great number, quality and variety of ideas we came across in our travels across the U.S.,” said Rajat Taneja, general manager of Small Business Applications and Services at Microsoft. “We hope that everyone who was a part of the Ultimate Challenge or who is interested in small business learned that there are tools out there to support their spirit of entrepreneurialism. Microsoft is committed to building software and services solutions that enable small businesses to run their entire operation with simplicity and ease of use.”

America will have the chance to vote for its favorite finalist from March 5–10 (inclusive) by going to Following the vote, contest judges Carolyn Kepcher, CEO of Carolyn & Co. and formerly of “The Apprentice”; Liz Lange, fashion icon and maternity wear designer; and Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division Product Management Group, will appear on network television to select the winner.

The four finalists include spoken-word poets from New Jersey looking to open a themed restaurant and teaching facility; a woman from Florida with a make-your-own-wallpaper idea; a woman from Illinois with an idea for the ultimate clothing rental service for fashionable, trendsetting young women; and a woman from Maryland who wants to create an organic beauty bar that offers a fresh menu of made-to-order natural beauty products and treatments.

“It was a thrill to be in the field, to speak with entrepreneurs about their ideas and to see how the Ultimate Challenge inspired them,” Capossela said. “We hope that all our applicants and all small-business owners will see how Microsoft Office Accounting software can best prepare them for success.”

The winner — the business with the most innovative business idea — will receive $100,000 in business startup money, a Manhattan-area storefront for one year rent-free, and infrastructure and software to help run the business. Submissions were judged and scored on the following criteria: marketing approach, financial and logistic feasibility, originality, and public interest.

The nationwide search for the best small business began when Microsoft deployed the Ultimate Challenge Van on an RV tour that began in New York City’s Times Square on Nov. 28, 2006, and made stops in Las Vegas, Denver and Chicago. The van became a destination where contestants submitted their applications and met Microsoft representatives and successful local business leaders to help finalize their Ultimate Challenge submission. People can view video footage of these stops on the Web site at

Below are the four finalists:

  • Mayhem Poets: Kyle Sutton, Jersey City, N.J. Mayhem Poets, a team of touring spoken-word poets, want to open a spoken-word restaurant and teaching facility that would host workshops with dynamic performances and guest talent by day, and serve a themed dinner menu nightly. The goal is to encourage diversity and multiculturalism, while staying accessible to all ages and audiences.

  • Make Your Own Wallpaper: Given Campbell, Tampa, Fla. Campbell is an artist and wallpaper business expert who wants to open a store where people can design their own wallpaper and express their unique style. Customers could engage in an initial consultation, receive a sample and, less than a week later, have a finished, one-of-a-kind product for a fraction of the price of high-end custom wallpaper.

  • The Endless Closet: Alexandra Dumitru, Hinsdale, Ill. Dumitru formerly worked on Wall Street and is inspired to create the ultimate clothing rental service specializing in big-name, high-end dresses for all occasions for fashionable, trendsetting young women. Using her research in fashion and business trends, her goal is to offer flexibility, variety and simplicity to busy Manhattan women at an affordable price.

  • My Organic Beauty Bar: Dana Greaves, Laurel, Md. Greaves wants to take the organic craze to a new level with an organic beauty bar that offers a fresh menu of made-to-order natural beauty products and treatments — a smoothie bar for your skin. The defining characteristics are the use of natural ingredients, on-site preparation, economic accessibility and informative service.

About Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007

Office Accounting Express 2007 consists of desktop software and seven integrated online services, designed in collaboration with industry leaders. Together, the software and services will enable businesses to harness the power of the Internet to manage their business, sell products online, send invoices and receive payments electronically, process payroll, run credit reports, collaborate with their accountant, and more, all from within their accounting application. The Office Accounting Express 2007 software will be available for free* while premium services are available at a charge. Office Accounting Express 2007 is available at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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