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Gigot center to host competition

Matt Bramanti | Friday, October 17, 2003

For the fourth straight year, the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies will host business plan competitions aimed at developing small-business awareness among students and alumni.

As the nerve center of a rapidly expanding entrepreneurship program in the Mendoza College of Business, the Gigot Center has created a growing series of such competitions. This year’s lineup includes contests focused on conventional new ventures, family-run businesses and social-oriented enterprises.

Theresa Sedlack, program manager at the Gigot Center, said the competitions are becoming increasingly popular.

“The numbers continue to grow,” she said. “We had 70 participants two years ago and 95 last year.” She added that Gigot staffers expect the growth to continue.

In the McCloskey Notre Dame Business Plan Competition, teams of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and others submit business ideas with the aim of capturing at least some of the $24,000 in prize money. Teams create short executive summaries, which are reviewed by a judging panel, consisting of 95 judges with experience in business. Sedlack said the large panel allows judges the time to look at each submission in detail.

The top teams will be invited to write full business plans with the aid of $300 planning software, donated by Palo Alto Software. The plans will include a more in-depth business model, detailed information about products and services, and financial projections. From those entries, the panel will select finalists, who will refine their entries with the help of mentors. Finalists will present their proposals to the panel in April, at which time winners will be announced.

The judging panel includes members of the IrishAngels, an elite group of Notre Dame alumni and friends with histories of entrepreneurial undertakings. Sedlack said that Angels will serve as advisers and mentors to the competing groups, particularly with student groups.

“It’s a really wonderful use of the Notre Dame network and the Notre Dame family,” she said.

The McCloskey Competition has drawn business plans dealing with a wide variety of industries. Last year, the winning entry was CN Resource, a company that consults with local school districts to plan cafeteria menus and nutrition guidelines. Other entries included a university consulting firm, an aerial mapping service, a hedge fund and even a war-games simulator. Plans dealt with businesses on a local, national and international scale.

“We continue to see a real diversity of business plans, and it’s really exciting,” Sedlack said.

The McCloskey Competition was established in 1999 by a gift from Tom McCloskey, a 1968 Notre Dame alumnus, and his wife Bonnie. The contest is also sponsored by IdeaWorks LLC, Palo Alto Software and Pace Global Energy Solutions.

In addition, the Gigot Center is also holding a competition aimed at family businesses. The Dorothy Dolphin Notre Dame Family Business Plan Competition, now in its second year, invites family entrepreneurs to create a business or plan the future of existing ventures. Dave Hayes, the Gigot Center’s director of family business enterprise, says that family-run businesses can benefit from careful planning. “The competition encourages families to work together and plan for both business continuity and family involvement,” Hayes said.

Hayes lauded the competition, which was the first of its kind when it debuted last year.

“It’s a very natural fit because Notre Dame is all about family,” he said. “It’s the piece we thought was missing in our business plan competitions.”

The competition was created by a gift from Dorothy Dolphin, founder of Dolphin Staffing, a staffing agency in Minneapolis.

The Gigot Center will also hold the Notre Dame Social Venture Plan Competition, which is similar to the other two, but deals with non-profit and social-oriented enterprises. Last year, finalists included an organization dealing with the preservation of traditional culture, a campus outreach program and a pharmaceutical ethics organization. Total awards for the competitions equal $40,000.

The deadline to enter each competition is Oct. 17 and the first round of submissions is due Oct. 31.