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Winning Ways

Meet the winners of the Wharton Business Plan Competition.

This story appears in the August 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Times have changed since five years ago, when almost every contestant in the Wharton Business Plan Competition at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School was an Internet firm. This year, the watchword is "diversity," says Nicole Righini, associate director of entrepreneurial programs at Wharton. Among tech and energy-related companies, the 2003 winner was a pet health insurance business. Chris Ashton, 30, Natasha Ashton, 29, Laura Bennett, 37, and Alex Krooglik, 30, won $20,000 in start-up capital.

The fact that the Ashtons came from a personal standpoint helped-Chris and wife Natasha got the idea for the company when their cat, Bodey, fell ill in 2001. "We took her to the vet hospital-it was expensive," recalls Chris. After paying large out-of-pocket costs, the couple looked for the pet insurance that was easily available in England, their homeland, but wasn't as easy to find in the States.

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