Robert J. Trulaske Sr., College of Business, University of Missouri

MU Competition Helps Launch Entrepreneurs

A four-member Crosby MBA Program team won the $5,000 Eldridge Award in the fifth annual Show-Me Business Plan Competition held at the University of Missouri Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. Xandra Sifuentes, a second-year MBA student; Matthew Granberry, also a second-year MBA student; Nathan Corley, who received his MBA in mid-December; and Claire Li, who also graduated last December, took first place as members of Adroit Motion LLC for their plan to commercialize an innovative laparoscopic medical instrument. Each team member will receive $1,250 of the prize, sponsored by alumnus Steve Trampe, owner of Owen Development and chairman of Sequoia Sciences.

"It was a very long, difficult, busy project," Granberry said. "So actually saying we won the competition meant a whole lot." The students comprised one of six teams drawn from the Trulaske College of Business course called "Launching a High-Growth Venture—the Business Plan." After selecting six commercial opportunities for the course, each student chose a venture team upon which to work for the semester.

The business plans those teams developed were put to the test during the Show-Me Business Plan Competition. Trampe and other investors served on a panel that judged each team's 15-minute business presentation, as well as team member performances during a subsequent question and answer session. The judges' criteria reflected their own professional experience, said Jake Halliday, an adjunct assistant professor of management and CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, who teaches the business plan course.

"They chose the one venture that they would most likely invest in," Halliday said. Sifuentes, who acted as CEO for the Adroit Motion team, said her group's winning effort started with research into the surgical medical device industry that the laparoscopic product targeted. Each week team members assigned themselves tasks and deadlines for each section of the 20-page business plan, to which they attached 10 pages of financial statements, Sifuentes said.

By creating a demanding real-world business situation, the course and competition provided a unique and effective learning environment, team members said. Corley, who acted as Adroit Motion's chief marketing officer, considers the class the "most hands-on" business course he took at the business college.

"I think in the end the experience was even better than I thought it would be," agreed Sifuentes, whose decision to enroll in Mizzou's MBA program was driven by the opportunity the business plan class presented.

Granberry pointed to the investor presentation as an important component of the project. Learning how to condense and verbally frame the group's ideas was challenging and "a pretty big skill that we learned in the last couple of weeks of the course." Members of the team may go on to compete in other venture competitions, Halliday added.