University of Arkansas Team Returns to Business Plan Competition Finals After Winning in 2012

By Michael Rule, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Grassroots

On October 12th, students from three pharmacy schools will vie in a live competition to be the 2013 winner of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA) Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. For the second consecutive year, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy, winner of the 2012 competition, is among the three finalists.

Similar to 2012, NCPA has reached out to each of the three finalist teams for their perspectives of the competition, held at the NCPA 115th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition in Orlando, FL October 12-16. (To learn more and register, click here.)

In 2004, NCPA held the inaugural pharmacy student business plan competition in which six schools submitted entries. Now in its tenth year, this competition has grown in popularity and participation with 39 schools entering in 2013. Click here for more on the competition.

Our Q&A with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy (UAMS) team, comprised of Bethany Jensen (Team Captain), Emily Kordsmeier, Tyler Martin, and Melody Williams follows.

NCPA: What made you consider a career in independent community pharmacy and to ultimately enter this contest?

Melody Williams: I always knew I wanted a career in the medical field, but changed my mind several times. I decided on pharmacy during my junior year of high school. When I was in undergrad, I worked at a small family-owned convenience store. The part of that job that I still miss was seeing my regular customers and getting to know them. I feel like independent pharmacy would give me the opportunity to know my “regulars” and work in the medical field. I took the Entrepreneurship class at UAMS to learn more about independent pharmacy and our plan was selected to enter the competition.

Bethany Jensen: I have always had what I like to call an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Growing up, my dad started a family business so he could teach us the importance of responsibility and working hard for what you want to achieve. As I pursued pharmacy to fulfill my desire to help people in a way that involved science and medicine, I always had the thought in the back of my mind that I would love to eventually own my own pharmacy, thereby combining all three of my passions into one—helping people, practicing pharmacy, and pursuing entrepreneurship. This competition was a way to get my feet wet and see all the aspects involved in owning a pharmacy.

NCPA: Have you previously attended an NCPA annual meeting? If so, what made you want to come back (in addition to competing in the live competition)?

UAMS: A couple of us have attended once before, but it will be a first-time experience for the other half of our team. We are all looking forward to it very much! It will be a wonderful networking opportunity, and a chance to learn as much as we can about what it would take to make our business plan a reality.

NCPA: Can you sum up the highlights of your proposed plan to purchase or start an independent community pharmacy?

UAMS: Our plan is to create a start-up pharmacy based on our 2-4-1 concept, solving two global needs with one unique solution. The two global needs we address are 1) access to medicine, and 2) economic stimuli. For every prescription you come into our store to fill, medicine is provided to someone that needs it. The coffee shop side of our store allows us to sell free-trade products that promote the economic growth of international coffee farms.

NCPA: What makes the independent community pharmacy that you propose to open stand out from other retail pharmacies in the area?

UAMS: Our mission sets us apart and our business model is designed to promote customer interaction in our outreach.

NCPA: For those who are unfamiliar with the competition, can you describe the time and effort that went into writing your business plan? How many hours a week? What was the most unusual or surprising thing you had to do in preparing? What about your preparations for the live presentation in Orlando?

UAMS: Let’s just say one of the side effects of working on this plan is sleep deprivation, but it has been a great experience! The written plan was due shortly after finals which made finals week extra crazy for us. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with though! Preparation for live competition has gone well, but it’s crazy trying to plan times to get together when we have jobs and rotations and don’t all live in Little Rock anymore.

NCPA: What else would you like to tell people about the competition?

UAMS: It’s a lot of work but a great experience. Having a great team helps! The sense of accomplishment gained from completing a project of this caliber is something that will inspire you to continue to pursue your passions, no matter how challenging.

NCPA: What advice would you give students who may be interested in entering the business plan competition?

UAMS: Be willing to put time in and don’t give up on an idea that sounds scary. Do your research and modify if needed, but success comes from dreaming big!

NCPA: Anything you’d like to add regarding your pharmacy school or NCPA student chapter?

UAMS: UAMS is an amazing pharmacy school. The school, faculty, and student body as a whole have been so overwhelmingly supportive of us—we can’t thank you all enough! The staff and faculty are wonderful people, and do everything within their power to help us succeed. We are so proud to be students of such a wonderful pharmacy school!

Editor’s note:

Each of the three finalists will receive an award based on where they place:

  • First Place—$3,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $3,000 contributed to the school in the dean’s name to promote independent pharmacy.
  • Second Place—$2,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $2,000 contributed to the school in the dean’s name to promote independent pharmacy.
  • Third Place—$1,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $1,000 contributed to the school in the dean’s name to promote independent pharmacy.

As an added bonus, a profile of the winner will appear in the January 2014 issue of America’s Pharmacist as well as a full-length feature in the April 2014 issue.

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