Students, semi-finalists for Miami Herald design entrepreneurship challenge


Tom Pupo and Daisy Nodal, Masters of Art in Architecture candidates became semi-finalists in The Miami Herald‘s 16th annual Business Plan Challenge. Their project Moonlighter joined a pool of 29 semi-finalists, after almost 200 projects were submitted.

Moonlighter “is a tech cafe and lounge that allows local designers, entrepreneurs and the public to co-create, prototype and retail new products,” as described by Pupo and Nodal. The project started in “Designing Models” (LAA6936), a Special Topics Landscape Architecture course taught by George Valdes and Adrian von der Osten, Adjunct Faculty. Pupo said that “Designing Models” aligned perfectly with the business timeline he and Nodal had for the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge. Taking the course instilled in them more confidence regarding the development of Moonlighter. “Valdes and von der Osten were able to effectively bridge the gap between our training in the design process and the iterative process of entrepreneurship,” said Pupo. “In architecture, we are taught to think systematically, so this class just empowers you to apply that method to entrepreneurship, as well as every aspect of your life.”

“Essentially, the objective [of the course] is to expose design students to the practice-based concepts of entrepreneurship,” said Valdes and von der Osten. “There’s a lot of applicable overlap with the skill-set and strategic/conceptual thinking the students gain in the studio environment and the start-up world, and we encourage them to explore that. Ultimately we want future Landscape Architects and Architects to have a macro level understanding of the way technology-driven fields are innovating through business models and methodologies so that they can begin to innovate in the same way in what we see as a very stagnant industry, with respect towards business development.”

Currently, Moonlighter is undergoing review and certification with SCORE and SBA Miami for its business plan financials. Later this year, Pupo and Nodal will be securing funding and a location for the project, which has involved Pupo and Nodal in the critical thinking and skills behind design entrepreneurship.

“[Design entrepreneurship is] critical,” said Valdes and von der Osten. “The concepts and methodologies that start-up founders tackle on a day to day basis can help designers think through their work in a focused, systematic way that considers not just the stakeholders involved in any given product/project, but also the flows of value that ultimately influence design and development.”

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