Seventh-Annual Grace College Business Plan Competition Awards $13,500 to Grace Entrepreneurs
by Ethan Horst
Two Grace College business students obtained resources to kickstart their business dreams at the seventh Grace College Business Plan Competition on April 10. Emily Anderson, a second-year student double majoring in entrepreneurial management and facility and event management from Coos Bay, Ore., took home $10,000 for Forevergreen Farms, a sustainable Christmas tree rental, while Brookelyn Smith, a third-year student from Springfield, Ohio, took home $3,500 for b. marie, a boutique specializing in up-cycled formal gowns.
“These students have prepared for the competition since October. I am incredibly proud of the vision and dedication that these ladies have shown in conceptualizing their dreams and bringing them another step toward reality,” said Dr. Alan Grossnickle, associate professor of business and director of the William P. Gordon Institute for Enterprise Development at Grace College.
Anderson and Smith have both been developing their business ideas for years, but each formalized a plan this year, preparing for the competition. Forevergreen Farms is founded around a simple concept: allowing Christmas trees to be used more than once. Each of the trees is planted in a pot and rented out during the Christmas season, and can be in circulation for up to five years, or when the trees range from two feet to seven feet tall. After this, the trees are donated to a foresting company to be planted or sold to a family to replant. Anderson was inspired by a farm in England that operates on a similar process and was surprised to find there was nothing in the States that resembled it.
“Growing up, my grandmother taught me how to sew and helped me design and create my own prom dresses,” said Smith. “She often talked about her desire to create dresses for women who couldn’t afford them, and I found myself sharing the same passion as I grew older,” she added. b. marie is a boutique that offers a selection of formal gowns at affordable prices by offering a constantly rotating inventory of new, gently loved, and up-cycled creations. “Most women wear a formal gown–such as a prom dress–only once, but dresses are meant to bring more confidence and be danced in more times than just one night can hold, so instead of sitting in a closet for years, I offer women a discount on a b. marie gown when they bring in their once-loved gowns,” Smith explained.
Both Anderson and Smith are looking toward the future and the next steps with their additional resources and experience. “I had never thought I would begin this business right out of college, but I am excited to talk through ideas with a group of advisers and decide what the next steps should be,” said Anderson.
“To begin, I plan to start b. marie in Ohio and then expand into the rest of the Midwest,” said Smith. “I would love to have my own storefront and then my own line of gowns,” she added.
Image above: (L to R) Dean of Grace College School of Business Dr. Jeff Fawcett, 2019 Business Plan Competition winner Emily Anderson and Director of the William P. Gordon Institute for Enterprise Development Dr. Al Grossnickle.