Business Plans From Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs
Twice a year, I have the honor of being a judge at the Connecticut Business Plan Competition, where students from business schools and undergraduate business programs throughout Connecticut compete for cash prizes and mentoring from leading business experts, in a format very similar to the popular "Shark Tank" television show.
The event has grown wildly popular over the years, and even though the final judging took place via Zoom meeting due to COVID-19 restrictions, eight student teams participated in this year's competition. Here are some ideas the students came up with, along with my judge's notes describing their strengths and weaknesses.
Concept No. 1: a restaurant offering only plant-based entrees.
Strengths: More and more people are adopting plant-based diets either for health or lifestyle reasons and are demanding a broader range of plant-based options than most traditional restaurants offer.
Weaknesses: Just about every restaurant -- including McDonald's, with its McPlant line of plant-based meat products -- is climbing on board the plant-based bandwagon. As long as the COVID pandemic continues, a lifestyle restaurant centered on plant-based cooking will be out of the question. Could such a restaurant survive on takeout and home delivery alone?
Concept No. 2: an apparel business specializing in biodegradable clothing.
Strengths: The fashion industry is increasingly concerned about sustainability and the impact its fabrics have on the environment.
Weaknesses: People care about sustainability, but they care about many more things when they buy clothing, such as fit, fashion and style. A better approach would be to launch a sustainability consulting business for fashion designers, perhaps combined with an import business to source the biodegradable fabrics for its customers.
Concept No. 3: a smartphone app that takes your handwritten notes on a tablet, transcribes them into readable English and makes them look attractive by presenting them in a colorful font with appropriate graphics.
Strengths: There's no question that penmanship is a dying art. Still, many people (not all of them baby-boom geezers) haven't learned keyboard skills and have to jot down notes by hand -- notes they often can't read themselves. A viable transcription app would find a huge market.