MBA students compete for bragging rights, good grades and cash prizes
Business Plan Competition
December 16, 2011
By J.M. Berger
There were no Number 2 pencils in sight when nearly 30 Carroll Graduate School of Management students gathered in Fulton Hall on Friday, December 16, to take their finals in the Business Planning and Entrepreneurship course taught by Dr. Gregory Stoller.
Instead, five groups of students took to the stage to present the business plans they had spent the semester developing. Each group presented a plan developed for a real company, from biohazard management to kitchenwares.
Writing and presenting an effective business plan is one of the most important challenges for young entrepreneurs to master. Twenty teams developed plans during the semester, which were then narrowed down to the final five on the basis of short and competitive “elevator pitches” delivered just days before the event.
“It’s kind of a scramble to begin, because we give our pitches on Wednesday, which is just a five-minute version of what the business plan is, and then you have two days to pull it together,” said Joanna Lippert, a member of one of the final five teams. Lippert helped present the business plan for an industrial strength disinfectant to kill biological agents in hospitals and other settings.
“I think it’s pretty nerve-wracking,” said Caitlin Zabriskie, whose team presented a plan for the rollout of a new consumer product endorsed by basketball star Lebron James. “You don’t know if you’re going to make it to this round before, not even 48 hours ago. So it’s definitely a full day of a hard push.”
The final five compete each year for a cash prize, the satisfaction of besting their peers and (not quite an afterthought) a good grade in the course.
“We’re definitely in it to win it,” said Brian Donaldson, another member of the Lebron-endorsed team. “We all agreed since we got to this point, we might as well really buckle down and try to win. … We all want to win.”
“Bragging rights more than the money,” chipped in fellow member Sree Kastury.
“For me, it’s the money,” Donaldson shot back with a laugh.
Other business plans on display at the event included an interactive, tablet-based menu for bars and restaurants, a nanotech-driven environmental scanner, and a line of high-tech dinner plates, cups and bowls that were presented to the judges in an entertaining riff on TV infomercials.
In the end, the disinfectant won the day – Lippert and fellow team members Eric Butler, Carly Ferris, Anna-Marie Wascher, Weiquiong Vivi Zhuang and Matt DiStefano – took the prize.
“There were a lot of groups that worked very, very hard. So just to be up here, we’re very fortunate,” said DiStefano. “It’s humbling.”
Not all of the day’s lessons will stay in the classroom. Each of the business plans is designed in coordination with a real company, which has the option of using the plan that the students designed and even including the students in its implementation.
“In the 11 plus years we’ve been doing this, we’ve had 16 go live, and of those 16, seven are still operating,” said Stoller, both the course instructor and the day’s master of ceremonies. “So to me, that’s a pretty good percentage.”