Build the Business Competition Drives Student Entrepreneurs to Success

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For the first time in Northwood University’s history, the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise hosted a Build the Business competition sponsored by Chris Turner (NU ’92, MI campus), president & CEO of the FC Mason Company. The competition, which launched in September 2012, began by challenging students to create a line of business and commercialize a patented product owned by the F.C. Mason Company. Chris Turner and fellow staff briefly discussed the product prototype and market considerations to student competitors at a kickoff event.

For the first time in Northwood University’s history, the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise hosted a Build the Business competition sponsored by Chris Turner, president & CEO of the FC Mason Company. The competition, which launched in September 2012, began by challenging students to create a line of business and commercialize a patented product owned by the F.C. Mason Company. Chris Turner and fellow staff briefly discussed the product prototype and market considerations to student competitors at a kickoff event.

In the first round, 27 NU students on nine, three-person teams pitched their unique capabilities, business school backgrounds, and expertise to advance to the work stage of the project. F.C. Mason Company chose five of the nine teams to move on to the second round and awarded each team $450. A month later, these five teams proposed a business model and an articulated value proposition for the product innovation. Many teams presented a brand and logo for the product, as well as product enhancements that might appeal to the market. Upon completion of the second round, two of the five teams received $1,200 moving them to the third round. 

At the end of February, the final round of competition required the last two teams to produce a detailed market plan including a financial component, details on the point of sale, and a price point recommendation.  The winning team took home a prize of $3,000 and the potential opportunity to gain a summer internship or employment with the F.C. Mason Company to launch the product and line of business. 

This competition generated an excellent opportunity for students to combine and fine-tune their Northwood University business acumen, creativity, and critical thinking skills while working for a real live company. Nick Kwasiborski, a Northwood junior and a member of the winning team along with juniors Shawn Mersino and Nick Schummer, said the competition challenged his team to “put classroom concepts into real world experience.” Schummer echoed that sentiment pointing out the importance and benefits of a team approach. “We enjoyed working together and utilized each other’s best skills to make the best team,” he explained.

The Build the Business competition has been a meaningful and valuable learning experience for all who participated. Georgia Abbott, executive director of the Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity & Enterprise commented, “Chris Turner was a great role model.  He supported all teams and although only two of the nine teams made it to the final round, Chris showed deep admiration and enthusiasm for all of the contestants during the competition.”

Looking ahead, this pilot provides a springboard for other companies with patents, technology, or intellectual property to become the next sponsor of Build the Business competition.  

“We are uniquely positioned to provide a competition aimed at the connection between innovation and its commercial potential,” noted Abbott. “Northwood University students can be challenged and successfully demonstrate an understanding of the commercialization process involved in developing a feasible plan for other companies like F.C. Mason,” she explained.      

- Northwood Junior, Victoria Julson