Business plan competition funds student start-ups

Posted on Apr 28 2015 - 8:09am by Drew Jansen

Students competed to earn money for their start-up businesses Friday in the Gillespie Business Plan Competition finals.

The semester-long competition, formerly held by the UM business school, was put on this year by the Center for Innovation and Excellence.

Senior business major Tameka Wilson won $10,000 for first place with her plans for Nippy, an innovative breast pump model, from which she hopes to gain a profit through licensing.

Wilson commented on the origin and motivation of the idea.

“It came about because of my daughter and the experience I had trying to nurse, pump and go to school full-time,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, the prize money will go toward the development of a prototype and hopefully getting the product to market within three to five years.

A group of students with plans for RxPharm, a plan to place pharmacists in rural health clinics throughout the Southeast, won $3,000 for second place and $1,000 for the competition’s Best for Mississippi award.

RxPharm team member and second-year pharmacy student Andrew Smelser explained the issue their project addresses, particularly in poorer areas of the South.

“When a patient goes in to try and get a diagnosis for diabetes, hypertension and various disease states, the problem lies where they get their prescription and they don’t go to the pharmacy to pick it up,” Smelser said.

Senior economics major Alex Ray and senior computer science major Caleb Robinson won $1,000 for third place with their business plan for Zynyrgy, a website that uses a five-minute personality test to match job applicants to suitable work environments.

Ray said feedback from the judges is one additional benefit of the competition.

“The judges offered a few great comments that will help us develop Zynyrgy in the next few weeks to better help students looking for jobs or internships,” Ray said. “It’s ready to use, and we’re excited for users to check it out.”

Gallen Global Vision CEO and Gillespie judge Mary Susan Gallien Clinton emphasized the importance of planning for distribution in her judging of the contest.

In the initial stages, 30 teams presented summaries of their businesses, detailing the marketability of their product or service and a strategy for making money. The final round comprised seven teams presenting their formal business plans to a committee of judges that included a variety of entrepreneurs and business owners.

“The best thing about the Gillespie Business Plan Competition is that it allows them to take what they learn and then actually get down to it,” said Clay Dibrell, Center for Innovation and Excellence Executive Director. “The key thing to remember, though, is that these participants are volunteers. This is outside of the class; they’re just excited about entrepreneurship and want to see that move forward.”

Drew Jansen