Kelly LeCoy came up with the idea while talking to the owner of a store on Wealthy Street. “She had people coming in and wanting to sell their food products but not being able to because of the food law in Michigan. I thought, ‘Why not create a kitchen that people could rent and use the space to be able to sell their products in stores?’”

The Calvin senior business major from Wyoming, Mich., called her idea “Uptown Kitchen and the Shoppe at Uptown Kitchen.” A few months later, her business plan for that idea won LeCoy top honors in the 2011 Regional Business Plan Competition held this spring at Grand Valley State University.

Riding via train back to Chicago, where she interned through Calvin’s semester program, LeCoy pondered what it was about her business plan that swayed the judges: “I think what gave it viability is that it was completely thought through,” she said.

Calvin business professor Bob Medema agreed. “She hit on all her points. She emphasized the market need. She analyzed the market. She developed a reasonable strategy. She provided detailed financial analysis. She presented an investment strategy,” he said.

LeCoy’s business plan bested those of competitors from Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Hope College and Grand Rapids Community College. Her prize was $3,000 in seed money and in-kind professional consulting services to help further refine the plan.

LeCoy, an admitted foodie (“I am very passionate about food”), plans to take advantage of both the capital and the advice. She visualizes the original space as small—“Typically you have a catering space, storage and a cooler”—and adaptable to the needs of different cooks. The operation would give a lift to start-up food purveyors: “It takes away a lot of the overhead for them so that they can get their business started,” LeCoy said.

The plan, LeCoy’s honors thesis, took a long time to refine—and it went through many reviews by LeCoy’s professors, friends and even family. She worked closely with Medema, her adviser, and business professor Thomas Betts. “They walked me through my presentation,” she said. “That was definitely an advantage for me.” Calvin’s re-envisioned business program, with its emphasis on experiential learning, was another big plus, she said.

Earlier, LeCoy and senior Brian VanEck won the Calvin version of BizPlan, and LeCoy felt ready to move on to regional competition. “It was definitely a bigger challenge, but I was excited for it,” she said. Several of LeCoy’s business professors were on hand, as were some family members, for the regional event. “We all take great pride in her accomplishment,” Medema said.

Source: News and Stories April 13, 2011