Originally published March 27, 2013
Ulandra Reynolds found that her frustration searching for hair products is not an isolated phenomenon, but a widespread grievance among African American women.
“The amount of money we spend on hair products is ridiculous, and to still not be happy with them (is unacceptable),” Reynolds said.
And that common complaint, she said, was the inspiration behind her business plan. One that won first place Monday at Grand Valley State University’s fifth annual Business Plan Competition.
The competition, which had a model similar to the TV show “Shark Tank,” was sponsored by the Seidman College of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and allowed nine students to pitch their best business plans to experts.
The judging panel consisted of Jeff Royce, executive director of West Michigan SmartZone; Erik Hall, founder of Lee Shore Ventures; Laura Vaughn, founder of Sitting in a Tree; Mike Marsiglia, vice president of Atomic Object; and Miles Smith, president of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization.
Smith, who is also the project coordinator at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the students were judged based on the written quality of their business plans, the viability of the ideas and the quality of the pitches, and he thinks the final outcome was accurate.
“I wouldn’t say I’m naturally passionate about hair or weaves by any means, but I understand that what she put together could be a viable business,” Smith said.
Reynolds’ struggle to find a good hair product led her to develop a business plan for All Things Weaved, an online database for African American hair products.
She said she intends to use her $5,000 prize money to pay people to build an initial model of the website, conduct research for the website content and develop graphic designs for marketing purposes.
Her competition came from a wide demographic, ranging from undergraduate to graduate students with concentrations in nonprofit administration, business, engineering and more.
But in the end, the undergraduate senior majoring in public administration went home with the $5,000 prize money. Tyler Richardson’s Biointeract took the $3,000 second place, while Tyler Peterson’s Tie Medical took the $1,500 third place. The audience voted for Capable Solutions by Jake Hall to win the Buzz Award.
“I think I was at an advantage with being the only woman and just (having) my experience with public administration,” Reynolds said. “We’re taught to connect with people and understand the people we’re trying to serve.”
She said she intends to execute her business plan, if not go into something business-related after graduation. Reynolds started working for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation two years ago and has come to appreciate the divergent thinking methods behind entrepreneurial practices.
She said she hopes to see more students begin to, “embrace what (entrepreneurship) is as a creative mindset instead of a business.”
Reynolds will move on to the regional competition at GVSU on April 9.
Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2013/03/all-things-weaved-wins-business-plan-competition