Before Executive MBA students can graduate from the program, they’re given one final challenge: create a business idea. Students from the program’s three locations (East Lansing, Troy and Detroit) develop and pitch their creative ideas to fellow students, faculty, friends and family.
The style of the annual pitch competition mimics the show Shark Tank. The 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.
The winning idea at the Class of 2020 Pitch Competition was called Perfect Hedge, a landscaping template tool for homeowners and professionals to guarantee flawless hedge trimming.
“If you’re like me, you take a lot of pride in your home and your home’s appearance, but you don’t always have a lot of time on hand,” Justin Hardy, a member of the winning team, said.
The idea grew from Hardy’s own experience as a homeowner. “We started by talking about the lawn industry overall and lawn service…. One of the things I thought about that I hate doing most is hedge trimming, specifically because to get it perfect is time consuming,” Hardy said.
During the team’s final pitch, they showed comparison videos of Hardy trimming his hedges before and after using their product. When Hardy used Perfect Hedge as a template to shape the hedge and guide his work, there was a 30% reduction in trimming time.
“Perfect Hedge is a unique item and a unique opportunity with enormous potential,” Katherine McCarter, another member of the team, said during the final pitch. “Think of all the homeowners out there, and especially those that are weekend warriors.”
Hardy explained how the tool can be used by new and old homeowners alike, making landscaping easier overall. Further, he made the case for how lawncare professional companies could use the Perfect Hedge product as well.
“We interviewed landscaping professionals … skilled workers are on the decline in the landscaping industry,” Hardy said. The tool will help companies continue to offer quality service in less time, reducing costs.
Other business pitches from the Class of 2020 included a practical tool for hunters to climb trees safely while carrying a firearm, a food delivery service offering small plates and appetizers and an app to highlight and promote the use of community trails.
“What makes the entrepreneurship course so unique and a fitting end to the program is that the students get to put a lot of the business tools they have learned along their journey to use in an applied format,” Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and an instructor in the EMBA program, said. “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.”
McCarter reflected on what she learned throughout the EMBA program and in her team’s process for developing Perfect Hedge. “Even when you start small, you can end big…. I think just being consistent and staying with it, you just have to work the process sometimes and trust the process,” she said. “That worked in our product development and ultimately in our pitch.”