The Winning Essay: Spring 2018
This article was submitted by Kaylin Squyres, winner of the Spring 2018 Business Plan Scholarship. You can read more about her below the essay.
Upon applying for my MBA program at the Eller College of Management (University of Arizona), I wrote a business proposal detailing my hypothetical response as Brand Manager of a food manufacturing and export firm to a crisis. The prompt detailed that I was being considered for a promotion, but recently my best-selling product, Perfect Delight, an organic peanut butter, had been reformulated in one particular site to include 10% soybean butter to lower costs. The soybeans were grown from genetically modified seeds, negating Perfect Delight’s organic certification, though its labels were not changed, and a large amount of production had already been shipped. This issue required my bringing senior management to attention with my analysis of its severity as well as my recommendations. My constructed response relied on the key assumption that this company prided itself on being trailblazers in ethical business decisions and valuing a customer’s trust in its products.
While deciding which approach to take in my recommendation, I was at a crossroads. Should I encourage the company’s resolution of this problem to be focused on maintaining profits or integrity? Initially, I assumed that businesses in and of themselves are there to generate revenue – they are purely financially motivated. This particular issue in production was at ends with this: “coming clean” about the tainted product would inevitably cause a loss of revenue. I was under the assumption that my response needed to be a way to minimize the damage and maintain profits.
However, I was morally not okay with this sort of a response. If I were truly in charge of a business or a product, I could not cover up a mistake and compromise the integrity of my company. In my favor, the prompt gave no indication of which direction of this crossroads to choose, nor any information on the culture of the company. This had to be decided. Fortunately, this meant I could prescribe a mission statement for the company based on my own beliefs and values.
I made the decision that our company valued the integrity of our product and the trust our customers put in us. Our mission statement included that we pride ourselves on being pioneers who opt for transparency in the world of industry that often prefers cover ups. My approach to solving the problem detailed taking immediate action of the following steps:
- Ordering an immediate halt on shipments from this site and begin an investigation of our other facilities to ensure that they are not following a similar practice.
- Ordering a voluntary global recall of all products from this production facility since the time of the reformulation. We had a failure in our communication with production resources and were fortunately the first ones to catch it.
- Hiring a public relations company to issue a public statement apologizing to our loyal customers and ensure that it is our company’s mission and commitment to provide 100% organic products.
- Ascertaining the scale of the problem: perhaps it was not nearly as grand as it initially seemed and we will not suffer too severe a loss.
- Questioning if there are cultural problems in our organization that allowed this to happen, and put practices into place so that it does not happen again.
By making the assumption that the company upheld certain ethical values, I was able to implement a strategy that I could actually get behind. There is sometimes an association with businesspeople as purely capital-driven. As I will soon begin my graduate education that will prepare me to become a young businesswoman, I am proud that I entered the field maintaining the integrity that I plan to uphold in my career.
Spring 2018 – Kaylin Squyres of University of Arizona – Eller College of Management
Fall 2017 – Natalie Sullivan of University of Massachusetts – Boston
Spring 2017 – Daybelis Gonzalez of Loyola University (Chicago)
Fall 2016 – Karys Rowe of Belmont University
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 2018 Winner
Kaylin Squyres is an student at the University of Arizona – Eller College of Management.
Anticipated Major: MBA with a focus in marketing
Except from Essay:
By making the assumption that the company upheld certain ethical values, I was able to implement a strategy that I could actually get behind. There is sometimes an association with business-people as purely capital-driven. As I will soon begin my graduate education that will prepare me to become a young businesswoman, I am proud that I entered the field maintaining the integrity that I plan to uphold in my career.
Fall 2017 Winner
Natalie Sullivan is a student at the University of Massachusetts – Boston.
Anticipated Major: Applied Linguistics
Except from Essay:
When I signed up to teach a Business English class to students who were learning English as a second language, I realized I needed a better background in some business concepts myself. How could I teach my students the difference between profit and revenue if I didn’t fully understand it myself? To remedy the situation, I enrolled in an entry-level business class, which was designed to convey the basic aspects of finance, accounting, management, and advertising, among other things. For our final project, we had to design a business plan to introduce a new technological product in a developing country.
Encouraged by my ESL students, many of whom were from Spanish-speaking countries, I chose to write a plan to sell an English language-learning product in Nicaragua. The first challenge I faced was finding reliable market data. Many of the statistics I found online were outdated or inaccurate, and finding population counts of potential customers in a developing country proved to be even more challenging, because the government didn’t always keep up-to-date census counts or records. I had to delve deep into researching the demographics and economy of Nicaragua in order to properly define my location and market share. The next challenge was writing a financial summary. I had never calculated a business’s cash flow or considered funding sources before, so writing it all down made me face the reality of how hard it would be to remain financially solvent and find financial support. I had to be precise in how I defined my terms — money wouldn’t just fall out of the sky, so I had to crunch the numbers and show exactly where it would come from. I realized that trying to appeal to potential investors would require even more money and hard work than I had planned. This made me appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the math behind the business — the numbers wouldn’t lie: If expenses were larger than revenue, I was sunk.
Spring 2017 Winner
Daybelis Gonzalez is a student at Loyola University (Chicago).
Anticipated Major: Business Management
Excerpt from Essay:
The most challenging part about creating a business plan was researching the terminology and the different aspects of forming a business. I never heard of terms such as SWOT analysis, pricing strategy, or that I needed to include as many figures or elaborate on long-term and short-term goals. Because I was unfamiliar with these concepts, I had to use online resources to become knowledgeable on the subject. The SWOT analysis provided perspective on the opportunities for growth as well as the threats that competitors can pose. Using these concepts resulted in adjustments to the original plan. When it was finished, I was able to fill in any gaps or loopholes that could be detrimental to the business.
Fall 2016 Winner
Karys Rowe is a student at Belmont University.
Anticipated Major: Marketing and Music Business
Excerpt from Essay:
This past semester I created a marketing and business plan based upon the idea of introducing a new product to a developing country. Going into this project, I knew that I wanted to create a plan for a product that would not only sell but also assist in the development of the country’s population. I chose the country of Indonesia. This country represents the economic center of Southeast Asia while its capital, Jakarta, acts as the industrial center of Indonesia. Despite these accolades, more than 1/10 of the Indonesian population is still under the poverty line and almost 20% of children under the age of 5 are underweight due to malnutrition. After seeing such tragic statistics, I knew that I wanted to create a company and product that would could potentially alleviate this issue.
Handing in the finalized business plan, I felt more accomplished than I had ever in my undergraduate career. I had worked for several weeks and gave my professor something that I was proud of. It taught me how to apply classroom concepts to a real-life situation and to be innovative in order to help solve a problem. This project forced me to really focus on getting organized and pay attention to detail, analyzing every piece of demographic information and statistic. Finally, this project gave me the confidence I was lacking to pursue my research and take on large projects despite the challenges I face because of my learning disability.
Spring 2016 Winner
Tina Nguyen is a student at John Hopkins University.
Anticipated Major: Physics & Pre-Med
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 a student at Dartmouth College.
Anticipated Major: Quantitative Social Science
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
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
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.