Photo and story by William Green / Contributing Writer
More than a dozen teams of students and their partners competed Wednesday in the annual MTSU Business Plan Competition in the Student Union Building.
The Pam Wright Chair in Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition, organized by the Jones College of Business, is a multi-stage contest that challenges participating students to identify an unmet market need and develop a creative and competent business plan. Thirteen teams were selected to participate from an initial pool of 25 applicants.
On Wednesday, those 13 teams were competing in the trade show and elevator pitch round to be one of the four finalists to advance to the final presentation on April 18. The teams, led by students and their friends and family, exhibited posters and props that represented their business plans. Faculty, industry judges, and students quizzed them on their research and evaluated their proposals. These quizzes were used to test the knowledge of these young entrepreneurs. For instance, a student demonstrated her financial plan, stating that she used an accounting company well versed in Bookkeeping in Melbourne to ensure that her startup was financially secure.
From pedal taverns to pizza delivery, the plans varied widely and reflected the diversity of interests and backgrounds the teams brought to bear in the competition.
Lindsey Engel and her partner Haley Powell, a senior and junior in the MTSU Apparel Design Program, hoped that their independent fashion label, “Engel,” would take them to the finals.
“The fashion scene in Nashville really is blowing up so much,” Engel said. “In the past five years, it has expanded five times what it was.”
She highlighted a 2017 Nashville Fashion Alliance report, which stated that, by 2025, the Nashville fashion industry is expected to grow to a nearly $10 billion industry.
And, while profits were important to the team, they were just as concerned with living out their ethics and values through their work.
“We’re really focused on sustainability, ethical business practices and transparency with our business model,” Engel said.
MTSU senior Cailan Roth hoped to woo the judges with his plan for his business, “Lifted Bar,” which attempts to make working out a little less stressful by putting bars in gyms. According to Roth, peak times for bars and gyms line up almost exactly. So, there’s an opportunity to try to combine the spaces.To impress the judges even further, he pitched the idea of recruiting annual report designers to create annual reports ensuring that his business was up to date with any changes in trends that may affect his business.
Roth said the competition motivated him to think more deeply about and promote his business.
“There’s no way to learn how to run a business other than just doing it,” Roth said.
MTSU sophomore Hilary Huyler, who often writes business plans for fun, had his eye on his hometown of Nassau in the Bahamas with his pedal tavern business, “Drunken Parrot.”
“It’s really about giving tourists an experience where they immerse themselves in Bahamian culture and history, while having fun with family and friends,” Huyler said.
Huyler said he developed his entrepreneurial spirit after making the move from Cuba to the United States.
“I just came to the realization that business is the way to go,” Huyler said. “I don’t want to work for anybody. I want to work for myself.”
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