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News & Stories: 2008-09

Students compete at bizPLAN 2008 December 4, 2008

Tough questions

"Do you want to stay small?” Andrew DeVries asked the team representing Krugerrand Farms, LLC.

Photo of Plane Plus team"We want to stay sustainable,” replied senior engineering student Lisa Andela, who with senior business student Sam DeBoer, represented Krugerrand, a purveyor of raw milk goat cheese.

"You don’t have to be sustainable and stay small,” said Brett Logan.

"Do you have to customize the robot to fit the warehouse?” Chris Branoff asked senior engineers Matt Lubbers, David Van Kampen, Ryan Mejeur and David Vande Bunte. The four, representing Automated Warehouse Solutions, plan to produce a small-scale robot for retrieving products in warehouses.

"What’s your target market?” DeVries asked the student team representing Pericon Financial, junior accounting major Erik De Vries and senior accounting major John Van Buiten.

"Is there a market for 1000 planes?” De Vries later asked the team named PLANE+ and composed of senior engineers Ian Hoffbeck, Christian Swenson, Tom Kok and Brett Pennings. That team plans to produce and market an unmanned, autonomous, aerial vehicle—a small airplane—that takes aerial photographs for commercial use.

Promoting entrepreneurship

DeVries, a major gift officer with the Calvin department of development, Logan, the owner of Immaculate Flight and Branoff, a partner in Grand Angels, a local investment group, were judges in the second-annual bizPLAN competition. Held this year from 3:30 p.m. through 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2, in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall, bizPLAN is a forum for students to present their plans for various business enterprises.

The event is designed to encourage entrepreneurship: “The purpose is to get students excited and help them financially to put businesses together,” said engineering professor Randall Brouwer, who organized this year’s competition. “They get the experience of presenting their ideas in front of judges. When you have a business idea, you usually have to present it to someone to get funding—so presenting a business plan is a key part of starting a business.”

The bizPLAN teams were selected from a larger pool of teams that submitted two-page summaries of their businesses to the competition in late October.

Getting down to details

The four chosen teams were required to present more than a rough idea of their respective business. Team members took turns presenting details and data from their areas of expertise: everything from company structures to marketing strategies to cost savings analyses:

Andela and De Boer said they planned to tap into local agriculture efforts in upstate New York, where Krugerrand Farms is located, to sell their distinctive hard goat cheese.

De Vries and Van Buiten said they hoped to attract middle-tier investor to make Pericon Financial a success.

Lubbers, Van Kampen, Mejeur and Vande Bunte said they want to sell their robots to AutoZone and other medium-sized warehouse businesses. The robot also doubles as the team’s senior design project.

Hoffbeck, Swenson, Kok and Pennings hope to market their plane—roughly the size of a model airplane and also a senior design project— to surveyors, cartographers, scientists, firefighters and others who require surveillance photography.

Top flight

Their business plan for PLANE+ took the top prize of $1000 in the competition. Krugerrand Farms won the second prize of $400 and Automated Warehouse Solutions and Pericon Financial tied for the third prize of $200.

The PLANE+ team is planning to use the thousand-dollar prize to further develop the surveillance plane: "We were running under a lot of budget constraints with our senior design project,” said Hoffbeck.

"The fact that three people in the industry thought our product is possible is pretty exciting,” Swenson said.

The original idea for bizPLAN came from Logan, a 2001 Calvin alum, who sponsored last year’s contest in conjunction with the engineering department and the Calvin Enterprise Center. This year’s competition was co-sponsored by Logan, whose company does airplane cleaning and detailing, the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network (KEEN) grant and supported by the Entrepreneurship Reading Group at Calvin.

The toughest part of bizPLAN, Van Buiten confessed, were the judges’ questions. He was quick to add: "Even though the questions were difficult, it’s good to have the feedback we got in case we want to go forward with this.”

~By Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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