The Business Plan
Each fall, six teams of five students from around Yale enroll in David Cromwell's and Maureen Burke's Entrepreneurial Business Planning course with an idea for a business. Most have never tried to start a business before and hope that the rigorous months in class will bring them closer to their goal. Cromwell, who headed JP Morgan & Co.'s private equity and venture capital division, and Burke '97, who worked at Merrill Lynch and Cantor Fitzgerald before becoming an advisor to entrepreneurs and technology-based startups, created the course to be an incubator for new businesses, with the emphasis on creating great business plans.
The two mix lectures with weekly assignments meant to take an idea, develop it, and then test it in the marketplace. Over the last several years, numerous companies have been founded out of the course, with new ones coming each year. Some notable start-ups include Veritas Prep, a GMAT test preparation and admissions consulting company with 60 locations around the world and more than 30,000 clients since its founding in 2002; Encendia Biochar, a producer of specialized natural soil amendments for turfgrass and agriculture that was launched last year; Easy Office, begun in 2008 as a provider of non-profit business services, such as accounting, bookkeeping, and financial services; Soltage, a solar electric power company founded in 2005; and The Green Bride Guide, an online marketplace for green wedding products and services, that launched from the 2009 class.
This year, the six plans included a sports marketing firm, a medical billing service, an online portal for amateur sports leagues, a travel web site, a custom house production company that uses discarded roundwood from logging to build its designs, and a website/social network that helps people create rotating dining clubs.
Called Zoko, the dining website was inspired by a Yale graduate club known as Veggie Dinner, which brings people together to cook and socialize, creating opportunities for people to make new friends and try new food. Zoko is made-up of five students – three from Yale SOM, one from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and one from the School of Architecture. Since the course ended, the students have entered their business plan in several competitions. So far the team won the Ct. Business Plan Competition, and was a finalist at the 2011 McGinnis Venture Challenge at Carnegie Mellon University and 2011 Yale Venture Challenge.