April 05, 2011 | Theo Voss

The first place team, Uptown Kitchen, receives their prize money.

Teams who competed in this year’s bizPlan competition faced a lot of questions:

“How do you make money?”

“What are your costs?”

 “Do you have any intellectual-property protection right now?”

“Do you think you’ll be able to patent anything to block out competitors?”

“What’s to keep the drug traffic from getting into something like this?”

“How will you acquire customers?”

“Is there a model you’ve seen in another city or something that you can pattern this after?”

“Is your goal in this to try and make a lot of money, or is it more about the community and service?”

The Event

BizPlan is a entrepreneurship competition in which students put together a business plan and compete for a grand prize of $1000. The fourth-annual bizPlan was held in the recital hall of the Covenant Fine Arts Center from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29.

Five teams presented their plans to a panel of judges after making it through the written portion of the competition. After each presentation, the judges would ask questions to verify the details and determine the viability of each business plan. They would also ask about each would-be business’s possible competition.

The Teams

The $1,000 first-place prize went to senior business majors Kelly LeCoy and Brian VanEck for their plan for Uptown Kitchen. Uptown Kitchen was LeCoy’s final honors project for her business major and was only slightly modified for the competition. The plan is a rent-a-kitchen for budding foodies as well as a specialty store to help sell the kitchen’s creations.

“Over the past few years at Calvin I have become more passionate about small business, so it was fun to research the community I live in and figure out how to create a business that supports it,” LeCoy said. She and VanEck are continuing on to compete in the Regional Business Plan Competition at Grand Valley State University from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 12, 2011.

The $600 second-place prize went to senior engineering majors Brenton Eelkema and Jacqueline Kirkman for their HydroTower business plan. HydroTower is their senior design project which uses control systems and light-emitting diodes to create an easy-maintenance hydroponics system. Hydroponics is a process that uses nutrients in water (no soil) to grow plants. “The biggest challenge for us was how to both teach people about what hydroponics is and explain how our solution uses hydroponics to solve the problem of food shortage” Eelkema said.

They are using the winnings to help fund their prototype which they are currently testing. “Difficult questions presented first by the judges and then by the audience afterwards have helped us think about the direction that the HydroTower is headed” said Eelkema.

Third place, as well as the best presentation award, a total of $575, went to first-year engineering major Karl Bratt and accounting major Emily Bruin for their Grapple Grips business plan. “Because we knew we were the underdogs, we just wanted to have fun with the presentation and, hopefully, help the audience have fun too” Bratt said. Grapple Grips would design and produce grips for golf clubs that would help people pick up their golf ball. “I was very impressed with the freshmen that presented,” LeCoy said, “I don't think I could have done that my freshman year.”

Fourth place went to Clean Contractors, consisting of seniors Gabe Adhikary, Cory Strengholt and Nick Bakker for $100. Fifth place went to sophomore Jamaal Fridge, the winner of last fall’s Elevator Pitch competition.

The Judges

BizPlan was judged by Mike Harris, executive director of the Calvin College Enterprise Center, Ken Tameling, an executive with Steelcase, Brett Logan, owner of Immaculate Flight and Andy DeVries, Calvin College Calvin’s director of corporate giving.

Apportioning the winnings

The sponsors of the fourth annual bizPLAN competition collectively contributed the $2000 for the 4 awards.

Sound Off Signal is an International Corporation that produces lights and sirens for safety vehicles, buses, trucks and trailers.

The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network is a program run by Kern Family Foundation which helps schools improve the ways engineering students develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

Calvin business and engineering departments, as well as the Calvin Entrepreneurship club also sponsor bizPLAN.

The best presentation award was funded by Michael Zwier, a former participant who had a great presentation, but whose plan didn’t make any sense. After the awards that year, Devries explained to Zwier why his plan didn’t win. Just a few weeks before this year’s competition, Zwier gave Devries the money for the best presentation award and thanked Devries for explaining to him why he failed—information he is grateful for and has since used in his career.  

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