The McCloskey Business Plan Competition - a Valuable Learning Experience

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

Amanda Miller is a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2014.

Around mid-August 2013, the McCloskey Business Plan Competition became a frequent topic of conversation among the ESTEEM students. Our class would talk about whether we were going to enter our thesis project, what other ideas we might enter, and who wanted to join what team. By mid-October, 16 of our 23-member class were busy working on the Round 1 Plans, with four students working on two teams. I worked on two teams – South Bend Student Housing with ESTEEM classmates, and Imani Health, my thesis project, with MBAs and a student who worked on the technology development.

For Round 1, we had to write a two-page business overview. The challenge in this round was to present enough information to get the judges interested, while not going over the page limit. By mid-November, I found out that both my teams made it through Round 1, and it was time to begin working on the ten page business plan for Round 2.

We leveraged our ESTEEM lesson about using the Business Model Canvas and talking to as many potential customers and people in the industry to use. The Gigot Center, which runs the competition, provided industry mentors as well, which was very helpful! We took this information and developed business plans around this feedback and other market research. Both teams pivoted several times as a result of the feedback.

The week before Round 2 was due, I alternated days working on counterfeit drug screening and student housing. One of my teams pushed the deadline to the last possible second working on a final pivot. It was a feeling of relief at 4:53 PM when both plans were submitted, minutes ahead of the 5 pm deadline.

In early March, I found out that the Imani Health team made it to the semi-final round of McCloskey. Three of my ESTEEM classmates, Patrick Rice, Finn Pegler, and Daniel Collins, were also on teams in the semi-final round. We were able to make final edits on our business plans, and then it was time to prepare a ten-minute presentation. Throughout the week leading up to the presentations, we had sessions with presentation coaches and venture capital classes. They provided us presentation feedback, as well as prepared us for the types of questions the judges would ask.

The day of the competition arrived, and we presented to over 30 judges with a variety of backgrounds. The next day was the Venture Fair. We were able to talk to judges at a personal level. Because our product screens for counterfeit drugs, we were able to display real-life counterfeit samples tested using the paper analytical devices at our station. People loved seeing the PADs and the demos of how the technology worked. This was one of my favorite parts of the process, as we were able to get valuable one-on-one feedback from so many judges.

Friday night was the awards dinner. We found out that our fellow ESTEEM student Patrick Rice’s NanDio team won the overall competition, and that our other classmates, Daniel Collins and Finn Pegler, won a spot for their FitPetz in the NestGSV incubator for the summer. While Imani Health did not win, the competition brought awareness to the research happening at Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame. The feedback received from the competition will be valuable in a couple of years when the technology is ready to go to market.

Overall, the McCloskey Business Plan Competition was a fun and exciting hands-on business planning experience. While only a few ESTEEM students won prizes, the lessons learned throughout the process and the connections made were almost as valuable as winning. Congratulations again to Pat, Finn, and Daniel!