The Winning Essay: Spring 2016
This article was submitted by Tina Nguyen, winner of the Spring 2016 Business Plan Scholarship. You can read more about her below the essay.
I started a FIRST Robotics team at my high school during my junior year. With the majority of teams using at least $15,000 per year and a registration fee of $6,000, it’s no surprise that these robotics teams act more like small businesses. Different teams had their own merchandise, websites, sponsors, and of course, business plans.
One of the major problems with starting a FIRST Robotics team was the sheer cost needed to keep one going. Unfortunately, neither our school nor the students’ families had enough money to spare for such a program, as it was located in a low-income underserved community hidden in the thriving heart of Silicon Valley.
Writing my first business plan, which was written originally to apply to a grant, taught me how far I was willing to go in order to make this dream of mine come to fruition. I was so overwhelmed from work from classes and work from extracurriculars during my junior year. I became so desperate to find more time to work on robotics that I ended up signing up to go on a college tour for the sole purpose of using the two hour ride up there and back to work on grants instead of sitting through class, anxious about the time I had left. I had no data on my phone back then, so I copied and pasted the sections of the business plan I needed to work on onto my iPod and adamantly set to work as soon as I got on the bus. We ended up getting a $7,000 grant for the team from that business plan and its accompanying essay, which greatly boosted team morale and we finally got the “ok” from the teachers after being faced with a lot of doubt.
Getting the grant was one of the first major accomplishments on the team, especially since before the day I was notified we got the grant, I was constantly being told that setting up such a program would not be a good idea. The confidence I gained from succeeding in this one endeavor snowballed into me keeping more and more passionate about the project as a whole. The staff at my school didn’t expect for us to be able to find the compete to register for the regional competition, and we were able to obtain enough money that year in order to pay for registration along with extra money for miscellaneous parts and tools, so at the time simply having this grant application approved was a sign that I was on the right track.
Through writing this business plan, I became better at setting goals, because I knew how to lay out the specifics of how to get to the end. I learned how to think for the future and was able to set down goals that would be impossible at the moment but plausible later on. I imagined the team eventually being able to start and mentor new teams, a commodity with veteran teams in FIRST, in order to give back to the community for what it has given us. I wanted us to go to more outreach events, to expand the status of the program from a club to a team on campus, to continue allowing students to join for free given the socioeconomic status of many of their families, and to include and be inclusive to students of all sorts of backgrounds—including those with disabilities, of different ethnicities, and even those who could not speak English. I wanted to create a new community and nurture the one already surrounding us. It gave me a sense of confidence and a burning desire to work as hard as I could to make sure things went accordingly. During my first year as captain, the team went on to win an award for overcoming obstacles and an even gender ratio at the Silicon Valley Regions, and during my second and last year as captain, we had qualified for the World Championships and was able to raise money for the cost of going within a week after our regional competition.
With these new skills, I began to build the team I wanted to see in the business plan I had made. Not everything went according to plan, but having the plan exist in the first place really helped point me in the direction where I’d want to go next and was able to tell team members what they had to do if they wanted to achieve the same goal. Before starting a FIRST Robotics team, I was full of ideas, but I also believed that I wasn’t the type to be a leader. To say that writing this single business plan taught me how to be a leader would be a stretch, but it definitely did set down the foundations to becoming one.
Spring 2016 – Tina Nguyen of Johns Hopkins University
Fall 2015 – Evan Morgan of Dartmouth College
Spring 2015 – Jake Berry of Western Washington University
Fall 2014 – Taylor Standford of University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Spring 2016 Winner
Tina Nguyen is an undergraduate student at John Hopkins University.
Anticipated Major: Physics & Pre-Med
Bio: Tina Nguyen came to Johns Hopkins University from San Jose. She previously attended Andrew P. Hill High School, where she founded a START Robotics team, as described in her winning essay for the Business Plan Scholarship. She currently studies physics and pre-med, and she hopes to go into medicine or theoretical physics when she finished college. Tina is involved with several student groups at Johns Hopkins, including Engineering World Health, the Johns Hopkins BBoys, and the John Hopkins Robotics club.
Excerpt from the Essay:
Through writing this business plan, I became better at setting goals, because I knew how to lay out the specifics of how to get to the end. I learned how to think for the future and was able to set down goals that would be impossible at the moment but plausible later on.
It gave me a sense of confidence and a burning desire to work as hard as I could to make sure things went accordingly. During my first year as captain, the team went on to win an award for overcoming obstacles and an even gender ratio at the Silicon Valley Regions, and during my second and last year as captain, we had qualified for the World Championships and was able to raise money for the cost of going within a week after our regional competition.
Fall 2015 Winner
Evan Morgan is an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College.
Anticipated Major: Quantitative Social Science
Bio: Evan Morgan grew up in Southern California and currently attends Dartmouth College. He intends to major in Quantitative Social Science, a program that focuses on how to apply mathematics and statistics to analyze social questions. Outside of class, he plays cello in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. Evan says that writing and implementing a business plan in high school gave him a sense of realism: “In order to write it, I had to be grounded in the realities of what I was doing, and had to figure out where our funding would come from. I couldn’t just say it would come from ‘somewhere’, ‘sometime in the future’.” After college, he sees working in technology as a strong possibility, though he wouldn’t mind working as the General Manager of an NFL team.
Excerpt from Essay:
The financial summary section of the business plan steered my initial financial idealism toward reality. When Roughrider Racing was just an idea, I had envisioned plentiful school funding and a well-stocked workshop equipped with all the tools and materials we would need to engineer a high-performance car. . . School administration quickly nixed any possibility of official funding, forcing me to consider options I had deemed less important. Financial support, I realized, would have to come from personal donations and corporate sponsorships, not from the school. The team would need to work hard to minimize expenses and strive to secure community support.
This section transitioned naturally to the marketing part of the business plan, something I had not even considered when I began the writing process. In this section, I outlined an incentive plan for our sponsors, whose donations would earn them prominent spots on our RC car (just like a real stock car) as well as on our web page. And I proposed marketing ideas which we would implement throughout the year in order to spread the word about Roughrider Racing: posters, fliers, business cards, etcetera. As I considered the marketing possibilities for our team, it became obvious that we would have to stress the charitable nature of donors’ contributions. Their generous donations to our team would help promote lifelong STEM learning, leadership, and individual initiative among our team members.
Spring 2015 Winner
Anticipated Major: Marketing
Bio: Jake Berry went to Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Washington, where he played baseball and basketball. Berry is passionate about health and wellness, and is a strong advocate for healthy living and eating. He volunteers in planning and running the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival in Seattle. This summer, he plans to launch a website on healthy nutrition. He currently studies Marketing at Western Washington University and hopes to work in advertising or marketing analysis after he graduates.
Excerpt From Essay:
Creating a business plan to start a sports nutrition website was actually pretty difficult. The market is saturated with inaccurate research, useless supplementation information, and dangerous products that could actually do more harm than good. In order to share proper information, I would have to dig much deeper into how companies worked and why they would promote things that had no benefit at all.
Winter 2015 Winner
Taylor Stanford is duel enrolled at Indiana River State College and University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Anticipated Major: Elementary Education
Bio: My name is Taylor Stanford, I am an 18 year old dancer at a preforming arts school in Florida. Fashion has always been a passion of mine growing up. Throughout my life my parents have constantly said to me, “Be and dress however you want, because you are an individual.” This lead me to create a fashion blog at a very young age of 13. This blog helped me become an individual with confidence. I can’t wait to carry this confidence and passion into my future.
Excerpts From Essay:
When I wrote my first business plan I was a fifteen year old fashion blogger. Now the idea of a fashion blogger isn’t too far out on left field, but the thought of a fifteen year old fashion blogger thats a little crazy. The fashion blogging industry is pretty cut throat, so getting businesses to trust that a fifteen year old girl will use their investment to further her internet blogging is a little crazy. So one day I wrote a business plan, and started providing it to companies who wanted to know exactly where their products or compensation would fit into my blog. It was so time consuming but I did it. To my surprise I actually learned a lot from it. I learned that to create a business plan I needed to be organized. I learned that to successfully follow a business plan I was going to need magnificent time management skills. Another thing I learned was that was writing a business plan creates a stronger thinker within.