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Students Shine at Annual Business Plan Competition

As students milled about the lobby of Zane Showker, talking with friends and family and munching on a well-deserved snack, there was a sense of relief in the air. Six teams of students spent Saturday March 20, 2004 competing in the annual COB 300 Business Plan Competition. Room 105 was filled with friends, family, students, and professors who all came out to watch the competition and support the team members. As the clock approached 4:30, the sense of relief ebbed into anticipation, and nervous chatter filled the lobby. All the months of hard work were about to pay off.

Each team presented their original business plan to a panel of seven judges. Team members took turns presenting different aspects of the team’s plan—some talked about marketing, others discussed finance. This division of labor helped to show the varying skills of the students and the talent that they brought to their team. The teams were judged on organization, visual aids, clarity, verbal communication, and content.

Following the presentation, there was a question and answer period where the judges had an opportunity to find out any additional information about the plan, and to express comments and concerns. “I wasn’t nervous during the presentation,” said Crisitn Grady of the team, “but the questions were the worst. You never knew what the judges were going to ask you.” Many teams worked as a unit when answering the questions. If one team member couldn’t answer he or she would defer to a teammate who could add more information. All the presentations were video taped, adding to the pressure of the live audience. Caroline Chin of Comfort Cooking said, “It was such an adrenaline high to be up there, but I’m relieved it’s over.”

Students have been meeting up to three times a week for the past six months in preparation for this single day. For many of them, what started as an assignment or an obligation, turned into a priceless experience. Valuable lessons have been learned and new friendships have been formed. The Comfort Cooking team said the process was “extremely rewarding and educational.” Josalyn Hughes, of AquaAid, added, “It was a good overall learning experience. It was an honor to be here.”

Aside from the friendships that were formed, many team members learned how to function as part of a group and to take constructive criticism. “I learned that the end product was more important than the minor disagreements along the way,” said Ashley Johnson of Comfort Cooking. Working so closely with their group for so long helped students to understand team dynamics and their own personal strengths and weaknesses. Students also learned how to effectively handle unexpected problems. Crisitn Grady said, “We would feed off each others ideas, we learned to listen to each other, and when problems arose, you learned just to deal with it and move on.”

Before the winners were announced Head Judge Don Rainey said, “This was as good a day as we could have hoped for. This is the top of the top.” AquaAid took home the first place honors and a $3500 scholarship to be divided among the team members. Nicolle Boren of AquaAid was named a MVP for her outstanding contribution to her team and the competition as a whole. Katherine Ferguson and Kimberly Ketting of Black Tie Delivery split the other MVP award because they “functioned as one,” according to Judge Don Rainey. And the winners are:

First Place – AquaAid – S. Mei Acuna, Josalyn Hughes, Nicolle Boren (MVP), and Lori Phillips

Winning team AquaAid recieves feedback from judges. Pictured from left to right: Lori Phillips, S. Mei Acuna, Josalyn Hughes, and Nicolle Boren

Second Place – ElderCam – Michelle Cary, Christina Nguyen, Meredith Cecil, Mike Peterson, Mark Cherry, and Taylor Ramsey

Third Place and Team Award – Grocer-Ease – Meg Davies, Brian Millard, James Matarese, Jaclyn O’Brien, Justin Mathias, and Kelsey O’Neal

Fourth Place – Black Tie Delivery – Katherine Ferguson (MVP) and Kimberly Kettig (MVP)

Fifth Place – Comfort Cooking Company – Caroline Chin, Justin Hogan, John Coyle, Ashley Johnson, and Viraj Herat

Sixth Place – – Crisitn Grady and Gary LaBelle

JMU and the College of Business congratulates all the competitors in the COB 300 Business Plan Competition. Josalyn Hughes, of the winning team AquaAid gives this advice to future competitors: “Pick something you really believe in, otherwise you’ll never have any fun and what’s the point if you can’t have fun?”