Student business plans win awards in regional contest

by Emily Roth

Five business plans presented by Whitworth students won cash awards at the 2012 Inland Northwest Business Plan Competition finals on April 19. The competition gave nine awards for plans in three categories, totaling $22,500 awarded to students.

According to the competition’s web site, it is the “largest of its kind in the Inland Northwest.” The competition accepted more than 40 applications this year from undergraduate and graduate students from Whitworth, Eastern Washington University and Spokane Community Colleges.

Students submitted multiple plans, either individually or in teams, for three categories: student-generated, community-based and social enterprise. Student-generated plans are for original business ideas developed by the students. Community-based plans serve the businesses of community entrepreneurs. Social enterprise plans may apply to current local non-profits or a new non-profit organization the students create.

Senior Kyle Jordan placed first in the student-generated category for his plan, “Whitworth Lawn Boys,” to expand his current lawn-care business. He also won second place with his “Hoop Dreams” plan in the social enterprise category to create a non-profit organization that would give Spokane’s underprivileged youth the chance to play in competitive youth sports leagues.

An accounting major, Jordan has been mowing lawns throughout his Whitworth career and presented “Whitworth Lawn Boys” as a way to continue managing his business after he graduates.

“It’s a business that incorporates Whitworth students to do lawn work,” Jordan said. “I have some other students working with me, so I’m in the entry level steps of doing that.

A team of Whitworth graduate students took first place in the community-based category. Tara Lambert, Kimberlee Betts and Mandell Campbell presented a plan for management and growth in Spokane-based business, MaidNaturally.

Other Whitworth winners were seniors Jeffrey Aly and Jacob Klein. Aly’s “Up & Down Golf Apparel” plan won second place in the student-generated category, while Klein’s plan for Inland Mobility Services won third in the social enterprise category.

Four Whitworth teams placed in last year’s competition, with two teams taking first.

Mike Allen, the business plan competition program coordinator, organized and facilitated the competition the past two years, as well as mentored Whitworth participants. He resigned from the position for next year after being elected to the Spokane city council.

“In some ways, it makes me sad because I really enjoyed working with the Whitworth students and we had some great success the past couple years,” Allen said. “I’m really hoping they continue the success.”

Allen taught a class that specifically prepared students for the business plan competition. He welcomed students from any major into his class.

“Businesses can come from the sciences. They can come from education,” Allen said. “They don’t all have to come out of the business department, so I would encourage all students on campus to get engaged with that program.”

Tate White, associate director of graduate studies in business, will be the program coordinator the competition next year.

Students who competed had to submit an online application in February and an executive summary of each plan in March. Nine teams in each category were selected to send a completed business plan in early April. Five finalists from each category came to Whitworth April 19 to give oral presentations of their plans and attend the awards ceremony and reception.

This was the first year Jordan participated in the competition. He regrets he did not try it earlier and said more students should enter, if not for the cash award, for the opportunity to network with local business owners.

“I think kids are kind of lazy, because there’s so much school stuff going on that they just think, ‘Oh, that’s just something else to do on top of school,’ so they don’t really pursue it,” Jordan said.

Jordan took the class last fall and worked with Allen outside of class to further prepare for the competition. He suggested students who are considering competing should first take the class.

“For the Whitworth Lawn Boys, I was able to do everything in the class and when it came time to turn everything in, I already had everything done,” Jordan said. “You get credit for school, and at the same time, you get your competition stuff done.”

Students interested in next year’s competition can review the rules and guidelines on the competition website.

“Students that worked really hard are the ones that are successful in the business plan competition,” Allen said. “If somebody is interested, no matter what their discipline is, across the university, if they have an idea and want to explore it, more than likely whoever teaches the class next year will let them in.”

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