BizBlock Competitions are a Win-Win

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th 2015 at 9:05 AM

While teams of students eagerly awaited the announcement of the winners of the FCB Business Division’s Fall 2014 BizBlock Competition, Chris Scherpereel, professor of management, wrapped up the semester by sharing the twelve attributes desired by recruiters that students take away from their BizBlock experience, including original and visionary thinking; leadership potential; analytical problem solving skills; and entrepreneurial skills.

Scherpereel finally made the announcement. Total Tread, a tire recycling business proposition to remove used tires from landfills and convert them into shoe soles to sell to footwear manufacturers, took home the win. Pennello, a business producing the Hydra Brush, a new paint brush that conveniently holds water in the handle, took 2nd. The team producing Onyx, a mobile application that would allow users to split rent and utility payments between roommates, came in 3rd.

BizBlock is an integrated business curriculum combining management (taught by Chris Scherpereel), marketing (taught by Kevin Trainor, assistant professor of marketing), and business communication (taught by Mary Bowers, senior lecturer of management). The course is based on a team approach, giving students real world exposure as they create in-depth business plans. At the end of each semester, the top three teams present their business plans to mock investors, who have strong ties to NAU and are experienced business professionals. 

Total Tread Takeaways

“The class is designed to where you want to challenge yourself the entire semester so they never give you that sense of security that you’re on top, so we felt like the underdogs the entire semester,” said Jennifer Hill. 

Kellsie Hardy added to Hill’s sentiment. “If you feel like you’re doing well, you’re doing it wrong,” she said.

Valerie Aguilar said, “Our team definitely focused more on having the ‘Just work hard and keep your noses down’ mentality which I think was best.”

Dakota Grizzle offered, “Your team becomes your friends.”

Thomas Begay said, “I think it was a team effort and that we all worked hard. And I think it took good judges to recognize how much work we put into it.”

Kyle Lindsay said, “There’s no doubt that everybody put in a significant amount of work to make this happen.” In regards to BizBlock, he added, “You never had the question, ‘When am I going to use this in the real world?’”

Blake Skorich said, “I’m just so happy that work paid off. We had to switch our idea so we had nine weeks to make our business plan instead of 14. Being able to overcome that was an incredible experience.”

Aguilar added, “It’s a class I’ll be able to talk about far more than any other class I’ve taken.”

The Other Side of the Win

The Fall 2014 panel of judges were: Jim Ribelin, (’87 FIN), president, HealthcarePays; Ben Sommerville, (’84 BSE) director of engineering, Chromalloy; Dave Garafano, founder, ValuePath Partners; and Kathy Thomas (’78 BSBA), founder of Stowebridge Promotions Group. The judges shared what they took away. 

“I’ve been involved in this excellent program for many years and am continually surprised at not just the quality of the presentations and the thoroughness of the business plans... but of the business concepts themselves. There were many exciting business opportunities. To me, what is important in terms of the BizBlock program goes beyond the course itself. Anyone going through BizBlock will obtain lifelong business learning that will prove valuable in future points of their post-graduation career.  It is a great ‘real world’ platform opportunity,” said Ribelin.

“I am inspired by the hard work of these students. The effort, time, and deep thought they put into creating a business from idea to all the fine details is simply amazing. The fact that they work well in a team is a critical skill they will need in any business,” said Thomas. “I have shared this outstanding program with many others outside of NAU and they are amazed. Many have told me that they have not seen that level of work in an undergraduate program, and yet, these students are just beginning their core classes in business. They are also taught proper business etiquette and proper business dress. I do not know of any other university programs that are teaching these important and differentiating skills. It makes NAU students standout above the rest,” she exclaimed.

“I have been one of the lucky few as I have been a judge for the BizBlock competition for five years, something I look forward to each semester as the transformation the students experience is nothing short of astounding. I have seen their plans and presentations at mid-semester: they are rough, unpolished and lacking clarity of thought. When I see their presentations the last week of school they are polished and very ready for prime time. I have been judging business plan competitions for a number of years at other universities and at the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Arizona Innovation Challenge, which awards grants of up to $250,000. The plans I have seen coming out of BizBlock are on par with the best plans that are going for real money. The business skills being taught in BizBlock are directly transferable into the small business community, which is the engine of the Arizona economy. Additionally, the students learn many other skills such as leadership, perseverance, dedication and satisfaction in a job well done!” explained Sommerville.

“I’ve judged business plan competitions all over the state for universities, high schools, and state agencies, and the BizBlock competition was one of the best. Their performances were better than many of the presentations I’ve seen in the corporate world and many of the angel group pitches I’ve watched. The written business plans were also very well done and several were better than business plans written by professionals with years of experience. I look forward to participating in future events,” said Garafano.

Summing Up the Experience

Scherpereel referenced a video to sum up what he felt was the most important BizBlock takeaway, that of being able to see a problem or a need and ask, “What If?”

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