News and Events
Pepperdine MBA Gina Warren Wins 2011 Business Plan Competition
Gina Warren, a full-time MBA student at the Graziadio School of Business and Management, won the $15,000 grand prize at the 2011 Pepperdine University Business Plan Competition Finals held Saturday, Apr. 2, at the Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu.
Judges were impressed by Warren’s proposal for Memoir Studios, a kit that would allow families to capture and record the oral histories of elder members and provide a service to transcribe and edit the material into a personalized, professionally crafted book. The business was inspired by Warren’s own experience of immortalizing her grandfather’s stories into a gift volume the whole family could enjoy.
“I have always loved to hear my grandfather’s life stories and wanted to document them, but realized how hard it was to record that history,” says Warren, of the inspiration for her winning idea. “This service will enable people to document and preserve their stories without having to write or even use a computer.” The personally relevant and emotionally driven dimension of the pitch, along with a clearly defined market and potential for growth, won over the judging panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors.
“I think the most important aspect of Gina’s plan that really resonated with the judges was that they all could think of someone in their own lives who they would love to have one of the memoir books done for so that they could capture for perpetuity the experiences of that person,” remarks Graziadio School dean Linda Livingstone. “This made it a very personal solution to a problem that each of the judges had in their own lives.”
In most cases, when entrepreneurs pitch ideas and sales numbers to investors, they are told to cut their numbers in half because of the rare chance of reaching so high. That was not the case for Warren. “They said that I was thinking on too small of a scale and that this idea is much larger than anticipated,” she explains of the judges’ reactions to her originally pitched figures. “Instead of raising $150,000, they said that I need to raise $10 million!”
The idea, notes Warren, was inspired by professor Larry Cox’s Idea Generation class, then tested each of the courses in the entrepreneurship concentration. “It has really been a product of the program, and winning the competition finalized it.”
Hosted by the Graziadio School and Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law at Pepperdine’s School of Law, the competition attracted 34 business plans. Ten plans moved forward to semi-finals earlier in March, during which four finalists squared off before an expert panel of professionals with successful companies of their own. Serving as judges were Scott Alderton, founder and partner at the law firm Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP; marketer Brad Fornaciari, president of Lighthouse Branding; Robert Hagestad, COO of B2P, Inc.; Daniel L. Manzer, president and CEO of Custom Lawn Service; Jason Nazar, cofounder and CEO of Docstoc.com, who cofounded Pepperdine’s business plan competition when he was in graduate school; and David Smith, founder and chairman of Core Capital Management.
Memoir Studios previously won first place in Pepperdine’s inaugural Fast Pitch Competition last November. Warren graduated cum laude from Seaver College with a B.S. in sports medicine and she completes the MBA program this April with a concentration in entrepreneurship. During her graduate studies she has been actively involved in the full-time program as copresident of Pepperdine’s Challenge for Charity chapter. The administration and her peers selected her as the Emerging Leader of her class, while faculty and classmates nominated her to deliver the student address at the Graziadio School commencement ceremony on Saturday, Apr. 16.
The Pepperdine University Business Plan Competition challenges students from all of the University’s colleges and graduate schools to compete for financing toward an existing or proposed start-up venture, which is judged in elimination rounds by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and faculty members. Founded in 2004 by students at the Graziadio School, the competition provides a forum for entrepreneurial ideas and ventures to be realized with the support and resources of the entire Pepperdine community.
Chick-fil-A, Gaiam, Hydraflow, iWE Foundation Project, Engagement Strategies and Lighthouse Branding sponsored this year’s competition.
Fore more information, visit the Graziadio School Web site or call (310) 506-4100.