Monday, September 22, 2008

Testing their mettle
MBA students sharpen skills – and maybe even reel in a job – at business competitions

Entrepreneur Michele Romanow is turning her caviar dreams into reality.

Romanow, an MBA graduate from Queen's University, along with undergrads Anatoliy Melnichuk and Ryan Marien, groomed their idea for a caviar-producing fish farm into the winning entry at a prestigious business plan competition at the University of Western Ontario.

Now they're harvesting caviar roe from wild Atlantic sturgeon and selling it to restaurants across Canada for $80 to $100 an ounce, while seeking $6 million in venture capital to develop their own fish farm.

MBA students and undergraduates at business schools across Canada participate in case competitions to hone their problem solving, entrepreneurial and presentation skills. Competitions may be in-house or corporate-sponsored and open to national or international entries.

Winners earn everything from trophies to big cash prizes, and sometimes receive plum job offers from top companies or attract the attention of venture capitalists.

Romanow's group won the $25,000 first prize at Western's IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition in March and, with four other victories and two second-place finishes in other competitions, the group earned a total of $100,000 in prizes that they used to start Evandale Caviar.

Evandale has sold 75 per cent of the product to date to about 50 high-end establishments across Canada.

"There's no question the case competitions were a critical factor in our success," Romanow says. "We got incredible feedback from the judges, who are some of the top venture capitalists."

Read the complete article here



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