Article credited to Lindsay Weininger and Anna Rzewnicki, Poole College Communications
A team of NC State Jenkins MBA students earned second place in the 10th Annual National Finals: The Invest for Impact Competition hosted on February 26, 2016, by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This was the first time the Jenkins MBA program participated in the invitation-only competition.
Other schools in the competition were The University of Chicago Booth College of Business, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Oxford University Saïd Business School, and Manchester University College of Business. Each school’s team played the role of impact investors charged with reviewing and selecting, from three companies, the business they believed would be best to invest in based on its financial viability and environmental or social impact.
First-year Jenkins MBA candidate Shannon O’Shea said she had heard about the competition and was disappointed that Poole College had not participated in the past. Tapping connections she had made through her involvement in Poole College’s Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC), its B Corp clinic and the Net Impact chapters at NC State and UNC, she was able to change that by expressing interest on behalf of her fellow MBA students.
Once the invitation had been extended by the competition’s organizers to Jessica Thomas, BSC director and NC State Net Impact faculty advisor, O’Shea began building the team that would represent NC State. Following advice from a previous participant in the competition, O’Shea invited fellow Jenkins MBA students who could bring skills in technology, energy, entrepreneurship, and finance to the team. Those team members were:
- Shannon O’Shea: who has a background in environmental health (MSPH), and is in the entrepreneurship and technology commercialization concentration in the Jenkins MBA program, is a BSC Sustainability Associate and has experience in community engagement and government consulting (first year)
- Rafael (“Rafe”) Estevez, who also is in the entrepreneurship and technology commercialization concentration, a HiTEC scholar and is working on his own startup (second year)
- Anindo Chatterjee, an NC State Net Impact member with a background in finance, technology, and energy (second year)
- Mike Vigars, an NC State Net Impact member with finance and education in his background, (first year); and
- Graham Givens, an NC State Net Impact member and CEFS/SCRC Supply Chain Fellow with a background in environmental policy and sustainable food systems (first year).
“I think we worked really well as a team especially given the fact that we come from very different backgrounds and each of us had a unique way of approaching things,” Chatterjee said.
For the competition, the students evaluated the merits of two entrepreneurs and their business plans. A third entrepreneur had to drop out at the last minute.
“Ultimately, we invested in the company that we felt could profitably provide a product and service that met a defined need in a growing market, and could provide us a reasonable return on investment,” O’Shea said. ”Their mission was clearly served by the business model and the entrepreneurs had a skillset and passion that made them uniquely qualified to make this business successful.”
The team’s selection earned them second place. Winning first place was an all-female team from Northwestern; UNC received third place. Oxford, also represented by an all-female team, received the “Entrepreneur’s Choice” award.
Winning is fun; the experience, valuable
The Jenkins MBA team did express a bit of pride at besting the local b-school competition. “Let me just put this out there, it was a lot of fun beating UNC and Duke. The fact that it was the first time we got invited to the event was the icing on the cake,” Chatterjee said.
The team thanked Poole College staff, staff, and alumni who provided guidance, support, and advice. Those mentors were Jessica Thomas, BSC director; Dr. Leigh Shamblin, director of the McLauchlan Leadership Program in Poole College’s Jenkins MBA program; Dr. Steve Markham, professor in the Department of Management, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship; and Ryan O’Donnell, a Poole College alumnus, and entrepreneur.
Was the extra effort worth it, given the MBA students’ already busy schedules? Here’s what they had to say about that.
I am still very new in finance and prior to my MBA, I do not have a significant experience in finance. This case was a great experience from that perspective. An idea might look good but the numbers might tell a very different story. The case involved a lot of financial analysis and number crunching, the kind of work I would like to do post my MBA.
Overall, this was an eye-opening experience and honestly the first time I have ever worked in venture funding. I have always had an interest in start-ups since working with a few sustainable food entrepreneurs but I was never sure of the process by which these projects were funded. This competition allowed me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in venture funding while giving me the opportunity to expand my understanding of sustainable entrepreneurship. Working with this team was a really great experience and I am thankful to have been a part of this group.
I am currently in the second phase of a year-long practicum series in the Jenkins MBA program’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization concentration (MBA 576/577), which consists of selecting a technology, developing a product idea from it, and creating a business case around it. It was immensely helpful to sit on the other side of the table for once and get a glimpse into what investors look at when evaluating business cases. We are taught to think that way, but it is not quite the same as actually doing it,” she said.
I am also particularly interested in sustainability and social entrepreneurship, which is something unique to the businesses you get to evaluate in this competition. It was very valuable for me to learn what impact investors are looking for and how it is similar but slightly different, than traditional VC. UNC put together a star-studded judging panel, so it was also a great networking opportunity.”
In addition to Thomas, the Jenkins MBA team thanked Dr. Leigh Shamblin, NC State Executive Education program director and director of the McLauchlan Leadership program in the Jenkins MBA program; Dr. Steve Markham, professor in the college’s Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Ryan O’Donnell, Poole College entrepreneurship alumnus and CEO and co-founder of EmployUs, for their guidance, support, and advice.
“Based on the feedback we got from the judges, the advice we received from each of them played a huge role in our success,” O’Shea said. “We’d also like to thank UNC’s Net Impact for inviting us and hosting such a great competition.”
Chatterjee said, “It was awesome going to UNC and taking part in the competition. Since I graduate in May, I look forward to the Jenkins team participating and winning the competition next year. And yes, winning is fun :).”