For students to graduate from the Broad College of Business’ Executive MBA program, they must complete a final challenge: create a business idea. Across the program’s three format options — East Lansing, Troy and Flex — students develop and pitch their creative ideas to peers, faculty, friends and family.

The style of the annual pitch competition mimics the show Shark Tank, where teams pitch their product or service idea, intended market and customer appeal, then present the financial case, potential return on investment and prototypes of their products.

Executive MBA students hold first place trophies at the program's annual pitch competition. Photo credit: Matthew Dae Smith

The winning idea at the Class of 2022 Pitch Competition was called DOC Box.

The winning idea at the Class of 2022 Pitch Competition was called DOC Box, a subscription-based box of toys and tools for children with developmental challenges. The team hails from the program’s first graduating class in the Flex format, a hybrid option launched in 2020 that combines online learning with an in-person component, one weekend per month, exclusively in East Lansing.

“According to the CDC, one in six kids has developmental challenges … so that’s 12 million children today, and that number is growing,” Charles Johnson, a member of the winning team, said. As part of the team’s presentation, Johnson shared how his nephew has a learning disability and needs the right learning tools and products, which can be hard for parents to find at a reasonable price.

“We want to help parents and families ‘develop our children’ by providing tools in a fast and easy way,” he said.

During the team’s final pitch, Johnson and his teammates, Dana Drouillard, Megan King and Tim Ely, outlined how DOC Box’s competitive advantage is personalization for each child and customization based on age and gender. DOC Box promises to deliver durable, high-quality toys, learning activities and coping tools by partnering with existing manufacturers. In addition, they offer an online support community for parents and families to share experiences.

A woman holds a DOC Box, filled with toys and tools for children with developmental challenges.

Prototypes of the DOC Box were given out after the team’s presentation.

“We believe DOC Box can expand into manufacturing its own products and content creation for parents, kids, therapists and medical professionals,” Drouillard said.

Beyond partnering with schools and corporations to get the boxes to children in need, the team said they would dedicate 5% of all profits to charitable contributions so that children in all economic situations can receive a DOC Box.

“DOC Box is really a company with a purpose, and that purpose is why we think it’ll be successful,” Johnson said.

Other business pitches from the Class of 2022 included an online service to enhance the farmers market experience — boosting profitability for farmers and reducing food waste — and a financial coaching company to empower high school students as they begin their financial decision-making journey.

For Broad Spartans in the Executive MBA program, the pitch competition is ultimately a chance to think outside the box and create. Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and an instructor in the program, said, “This entrepreneurship course is a fitting end to the program because the students get to put a lot of the business tools they have learned along their journey to use in an applied format. It offers them the opportunity to explore ideas they have had in mind and utilize the classroom as a place of experimentation to test their concepts and gather real-world feedback.”