The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Entrepreneurial spirit thrives in business competition

“One idea can change the world,” is the motto of the Kohler Business Plan Competition, a contest encouraging entrepreneurial spirit open to all Marquette students and faculty regardless of academic affiliation or college.

The annual competition is divided into two categories: business plan prize and social business plan prize. Individual participants are grouped into teams and matched with an experienced mentor to provide direction in developing a successful and relevant business program. This year, final projects are judged April 16 and 17.

According to the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship website, since 2001, the competition has launched hundreds of business plans and provided numerous students with prize money intended to launch ventures and future projects.

One past contestant and College of Communication graduate, Tim Cigelske, said the Kohler Business Program exponentially developed his company and greatly improved his business sense.

“We didn’t enter necessarily to win,” Cigelske said. “Instead we got a great background in business and help in training.”

Cigelske’s competition idea, TeeCycle, has developed into a niche T-shirt company where environmental-friendliness and reuse are central principles.

“I saw a lot of companies out there selling new T-shirts that were very expensive,” Cigelske said. “I didn’t think it was a smart use of resources. I researched, and I didn’t see anyone doing what I was doing, so I started my own company.”

Cigelske’s unique company rummages and searches for used T-shirts which are resold at reasonable prices on his website.

2009 Business Plan Competition winner and College of Arts & Sciences graduate Chris Hallberg also developed an eco-friendly company, SMUG, which sells reusable coffee mugs.

“I entered the competition with an idea and left with a well-defined business model and plan for converting that idea into a viable business,” Hallberg is quoted as saying on the business plan competition page.

Cigelske echoed Hallberg’s statement, emphasizing the importance of team mentors in producing their businesses.

“One of the biggest helps was getting assigned a mentor,” Cigelske said. “We could talk through the plan, what we envisioned and what we needed help with.”

Cigelske said he was one of the only non-business students at competition time, and he was initially uncertain whether he had the necessary background knowledge to compete.

“There was some nervousness about that,” he said. “But that’s what we had mentors for. They directed me to things I’m good at like creating narratives and visions for my company.”

Alex Stewart, Coleman Chair in Entrepreneurship, said the mentorship program is possibly the most valuable part of the competition.

“Many times, competitors come in with their own ideas and they do not necessarily need help with that,” Stewart said. “What they really get help with is the development and writing a business plan.”

Stewart says the competition’s namesake is essential and should be a foremost priority for any serious individual entering the business world of production.

“The plan has its own approach, its own template, its own style,” Stewart said. “It is something bankers and investors look for.”

Stewart mentioned some past winners like Ben Bartling, a 2010 graduate of the College of Business Administration, whose company has also received investors’ interest.

“Ben’s company ZoomShift works with scheduling for restaurants and companies. He went through the business plan course and all … He is kind of a star,” Stewart added.

Cigelske said his business remains profitable but is still small and developing. He said the company is seeking opportunities with other investors and partnerships.

According to Stewart, the most successful part of the Kohler Business Plan Competition is the networking capabilities the College of Business Administration continuously develops.

“There is an extensive network here of supportive Marquette alumnus,” Stewart said.

The Kohler Business Plan Competition is an opportunity Cigelske believes every interested student should take advantage of.

“I would say give it a shot,” Cigelske said. “If you enter you will get some help (and) at the very least you decide this isn’t for you, and you get broad exposure for your company, and learn about the business side of things.”

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *