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February 25, 2008
By Guia Del Prado
A group of three University students landed first place in the SilverSky Business Plan competition earlier this month at Truckee Meadows Community College with their market research software, Kuzook.
Kuzook is a downloadable program designed for market research. The software includes components of market research that people can outsource to other companies specializing in specific fields. The survey software is complete and easily compatible with many other programs.
“It’s an all-in-one product,” said Jeremy Thompson, a business management student at the University and project team member. “It uses survey results and targets specific individuals in the way they answer the survey.”
Thompson, along with friend and teammate Christopher Bishop of Truckee Meadows Community College, and University business management students Mary Dini and Donna Crooks, developed Kuzook as a project for an entrepreneurship class. The project stemmed from Bishop’s idea for software that he had been developing. Thompson proposed Bishop’s project as a business plan to Dini and Crooks, and they responded to the idea positively.
After the business plan presentation in the entrepreneurship class went well, the teammates decided to enter the plan into the TMCC and SilverSky group competition, which was held Feb. 1. They agreed to help develop the software with Bishop.
“As slowly as it (the project) went along, we eventually saw it as an innovation that could come to fruition,” Thompson said.
Thompson and his teammates were confident in their plan, but felt there was a weakness in the entry.
“We did have some concern as we were the only non-environmental entry,” Thompson said. “We were concerned; we thought we had some disadvantage.”
Thompson felt the team had to rush through the presentation and was anxious that the seven judges’ comments were too harsh to indicate a win. There was also limited time to present, especially for complicated business plans.
“Each team had 10 minutes to set up, 20 minutes to present, 15 minutes for Q & A and 10 minutes feedback from the judges, then five minutes to break down their project,” said Melodie Harney, competition event coordinator.
When the winners were called, the Kuzook team was visibly excited, Harney said.
“Team Kuzook was elated,” she said. “(They were) jumping out of their seats, hugging each other, which was fun to witness.”
Thompson said winning the competition was a relief, and felt like a reward for all the hours the teammates had put into perfecting their plan.
“We all spent a lot of time on this project,” Thompson said. “We were to the point where we were getting sick of each other and getting sick of the word ‘Kuzook.’ But it paid off.”
Entries were judged on a score of 0 to 10 on different sets of criteria, according to Harney.
“As such, there really wasn’t one thing that made any of the plans or presentations stand out, but a collection of things,” Harney said.
Team members won a variety of gifts, including medals, Microsoft software, scholarships, watches, Starbucks gift cards, books and free business services.
For the Kuzook team, their plan is an ongoing project. They will implement the judges’ suggestions to eliminate flaws from their business plan, and then enter the concept into the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup competition May 14 in Las Vegas. The Governor’s Cup is Nevada’s sole statewide business plan competition for college students.
The team plans on developing Kuzook as a marketable product. The software is already online and ready to be purchased. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, or EDAWN, is the group’s first client, and Bishop has signed another client from the United Kingdom.
Harney said the competition sets up business relationships between representatives of local firms and the students studying in those fields.
“Along the way the students are provided with workshops on different related topics, and they receive the valuable input of mentors, faculty advisers and many others,” Harney said. “These contacts often lead to long-term mentoring relationships with professional business community leaders.”
Thompson said the competition helped the team learn about the dedication and hours of research it takes to design a workable business plan.
“We tried to delve into areas which were not our expertise,” Thompson said. “We all realized how much information you need to present to potential investors (and clients); otherwise you get no luck in receiving funding. We all learned how much it takes to design a successful business plan."