Students use grant money to market proposed business plans
December 12, 2008
Bloomington, Ind.--This fall, the Kelley School of Business decided to hand out cash to 27 teams of undergraduates for their honors I-Core projects. The student groups were given $400 each as part of a new emphasis on teaching innovation as well as the functional topics that are considered business fundamentals, such as strategy, marketing, finance and operations. Students were expected to use their "Innovation Grant" to come up with an engaging way to promote the product they were trying to launch.
The grant money came from a fund set aside to foster creativity and support unique funding needs that may arise among undergraduate students. Other uses for these funds include diversity council initiatives, the emerging markets journal and global internship opportunities to enhance experiences of all Kelley undergraduate students. "The innovation grant is a stellar example of the use of these funds," said Professor M. A. Venkataramanan, chair of the undergraduate program at Kelley.
Ben Cowles presents his group's proposal for "Mile High Media" while Brian Moeljadi observes.
"The idea of incorporating innovation in the honors I-Core is based on the realization that a key factor to the success of businesses in the future is going to be thinking innovatively," said Professor of Operations Management Robert Jacobs. "Companies that are successful are developing whole new ways to do business that together with new products and services allow them to compete in today's global markets. Just like the functional processes, being innovative is a multi-step process that involves the capture of different ideas, the analysis of these ideas, prototyping and development, and finalization."
As part of their I-Core, students in the business honors program work in groups of five to six people to create a business plan and present it to judges acting as venture capitalists who might fund their plan. This year marked the first year students were given money to create marketing materials for their ideas.
"Real world business plans generally have marketing budgets," explained Business Administration Professor Thomas Lenz. "The Innovation Grant allowed students to experiment with the best possible means of selling their idea using limited funds. They also had to present detailed market and financial analyses to convince judges of the merits of their ideas."
Ali Rosenberg, Rachel Weeks, Alvin Arief, Kara Findley and Michael Agrapedes(left to right) display a prototyped LCD display as part of their proposal for "As Seen on Campus."
One group of students proposed "Mile High Media," a download company that would provide air travelers with in-terminal kiosks for downloading digital content onto portable media players. Although many airports now offer wireless Internet access, the team argued that it was both expensive and slow compared to their proposed kiosks, which would feature libraries of the most popular content available immediately and ultra-high-speed Internet connections for downloading content that was not in the library. Group members Gina Alberga, Ben Cowles, Katie Gravatt, Michael Knapp, Brian Moeljadi and Patrick Orr used their grant money for a digital rendering of the kiosks.
Student teams had to answer to a tough group of judges. Eight Kelley alumni traveled to Bloomington to judge the presentations; professors also participated. The "Mile High Media" team fielded questions about their target market, the number of transactions needed to break even on their investment and how much money they would need to start their business.
Another group of students proposed "As Seen on Campus," a marketing concept that would involve hiring students to wear clothing featuring portable LCD screens displaying advertisements. The students would serve as brand ambassadors, frequenting high-traffic areas of campus and interacting with students. The group's executive summary claims, "This unique and mobile method of advertising will draw attention and curiosity from fellow students, providing a high number of impressions in a hard-to-reach demographic." Group members Alvin Arief, Kara Findley, Mike Agrapedes, Rachel Weeks, Ali Rosenberg and Mary Beth Kime used their grant money to purchase a digital photoframe, metal tape, and a sweatshirt to prototype their concept. Alvin Arief, who constructed the prototype, wore it during the group presentation.
"The grant allowed us to unleash some of our pent-up creativity. Everyone enjoyed developing, creating and testing the wearable LCD unit prototype, and we believe this visual aid really helped drive home why our company 'As Seen on Campus' would make a great investment," group member Mary Beth Kime said.