Whizz-Bang Biz Ideas... And a Few Fizzles
This year's Business Plan Competition was the UW's second such contest,
but the first to include an "investment round."
It won't be the last.
Part carnival, part serious business, the event captured the spirit of
entrepreneurism in way that no chart or graph could hope to match.
"When I got here and actually talked to the people, it was so much
more exciting than what I read in the plan," says Terry Byington, executive
director of the Washington Council of the American
Electronics Association and a judge in the competition.
"The experience these people are getting here, having to pitch themselves
over and over again, is invaluable for their careers," says fellow
judge Jennifer Boyer, '96, '98, commercial banking relationship manager
at Wells Fargo Bank. "There were some good sales people here."
One PEI judge gets a pitch from an eager
The previous year, students were judged solely on their written material
and oral presentations. The investment round allowed students to bring their
business plans to life.
Or, in the case of one idea, to death.
Amid the wide variety of booths students fashioned to hype their businesses,
one entry buried the competition.
The company, a co-op intended to strengthen the purchasing power of independent
funeral parlors, turned heads by displaying an open casket. A mound of miniature
Baby Ruths and Butterfingers sat on a nearby table. A sign read, "It's
such a sensitive business."
Many students wore matching golf shirts emblazoned with their company's
logo. The team from On-Site Deluxe Car Wash donned white T-shirts and blue
jeans with white towels tucked in their left front pockets. Their rivals
at fairautorepair.com wore spiffy white coveralls over dress shirts and
Just about everybody flashed business cards and flyers.
But showmanship only went so far. Judges wanted to see gumption as well
"I went with passion, the passion of the entrepreneur," says
Brian Donaldson, '83, '88, describing the companies he favored. Donaldson
is president and CEO of Authentic8 Inc., a software producer. "There
are a lot of good ideas, but in an entrepreneurial endeavor, the person
is what really makes a difference," he says.
Other winners in the competition included fairautorepair.com, which gives
on-line car repair estimates; allstudents.com,
offering comprehensive Web pages for college campuses; SmallWorld.com, an
electronic shopping mall for Third World artisan imports; and The Straight
Edge, a men's hair salon.
For sheer determination, it was hard to top the team from Adventure Cove,
a proposed amusement park near Olympia.
Partners Michelle Blake and Dece Todd traveled from Pacific Lutheran
University to enter the competition. Along the way, their props--a treasure
chest full of small toys and a 6-foot tall papier-mâché lighthouse--flew
out of the back of their pickup.
Although both items remained attached to a rope, the treasure chest coughed
up numerous toys and the lighthouse took a beating as they cartwheeled down
But the spirit of the entrepreneur prevailed. Arriving at the competition
just five minutes before it started, Blake and Todd restocked the treasure
chest, taped the battered beacon together and found a way to smile.
There was only one catch. "We're afraid to turn (the lighthouse)
on," says Todd. "We might electrocute somebody."--Brad