There are many things about business school that I never imagined before arriving in Austin: the degree at which I would be challenged academically, the pure intelligence of my classmates, the amount of time I would spend at one bar on football days, climbing the Great Wall and Table Mountain with classmates turned close friends. Another thing on the list of unimagined business school activities: dragging a plus-size mannequin through the business school into a room full of 80+ students, teachers, potential investors and judges to talk about lingerie. That’s where I found myself last week – standing with four close friends in front of that room presenting our business plan for mentionables, a high-quality, everyday undergarment line for the average woman.
But first, let me back up a little. I’ve mentioned many times on this blog why I chose to come to McCombs, but one of the things I loved about this school from the start was its entrepreneurial spirit. It was for that reason that I chose to take a class last semester called New Venture Creation with Rob Adams, which asked students to form groups and come up with ideas for new businesses, using the remainder of the semester to select an idea, form the business plan and present the idea to potential investors. The formation of my group was easy – I looked around at the four women seated all around me on the first day of class (who also happen to be four of my closest friends at McCombs) and our group was complete. It was coming up with the idea for the business that was the hard part, but after some group discussions and some amazing information that arose out of market validation, we came up with our business plan: lingerie for the underserved plus-size market. And just like that, mentionables was born.
We had several chances throughout the semester to present our idea to investors and entrepreneurs who could give us feedback about our plan, presentation and overall idea. We received a lot of really great constructive criticism, and by the end of the semester we were ready to submit our completed plan that we would present to a panel of judges, emulating the class’ final exam. Having received extremely positive feedback from all of the judges, we knew that mentionables was something with which we’d like to move forward. We all decided to take the Advanced Venture Practicum to further develop our idea and work on our entrance into Texas Moot Corp and other business plan competitions.
We started the business competition season competing in the semifinal round of Texas Moot Corp, nervously presenting to a conference room full of venture capitalists and local entrepreneurs. You can read more about the mentionables team and our semifinal presentation here. We came out of that presentation aware of things in our plan and presentation that we’d need to fix, and were advanced to the final round, which would take place two weeks later.
The days leading up to Texas Moot Corp Finals were full of preparation, practice and power point editing. Since we went last, we weren’t permitted to sit in the room as any of the groups before us presented their plans, so we spent the hours leading up to our presentation sitting in the MBA lounge and reassuring ourselves that we knew exactly what we were doing. Little by little the nerves crept up, especially after one of our friends came in to tell us that the Legacy Events Room was standing room only. When we finally were able to enter the room to set up, I was amazed at the size of the crowd and slightly intimidated by what we were about to do. And then, almost without warning, our introduction started.
I’m pretty sure I blacked out some time in between when our presentation started and when it ended. All I know is that I was so very proud of my teammates for how clear they were being, how confident they sounded and how articulate they all were. I concentrated hard on my opening line word for word until it was my turn to speak. And although I felt jittery at the start, I was confident others couldn’t tell. When I was finished, I went back to my spot on the sideline and eagerly awaited the end of our presentation. And then I heard my friend Megan say, “And with that, we’ll open it up to any questions.” And then: applause. The clapping must have removed me from my alternate reality because it was at that moment that I was first able to concentrate on the audience – and I saw so many friendly, familiar faces of our classmates and friends that were there to support us. It was an amazing feeling.
We didn’t win at Finals, but are so proud of our MBA classmates Franklin Fuchs and David McParland whose company, Solavicta, earned an entrance into Global Moot Corp. We also were able to get some really great advice from the judges who encouraged us to keep working on our business. We plan on further adjusting our plan and tinkering with it on an ongoing basis as we continue on our journey. Mentionables’ next stop is Winnipeg, Canada, as we compete at the end of March in the Stuart Clark Venture Challenge.
This has been without a doubt one of the most amazing parts of my experience at McCombs. I’ve been able to contribute to an amazing idea (one that two sets of judges said was deserving of Oprah press!) with four incredible women. Working with this group of women has been so special, because we’ve been able to learn so much about each other as business partners and have been able to simultaneously further develop our friendship. I’ve never been prouder of a group of women in my life, and I’ve never been more passionate about a presentation that I’ve done. It’s an exciting part of second semester, and one that makes my time at McCombs that much more mentionable.