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Theatre skills help BYU student win second place at national business competition

Brigham Young University theatre and media arts graduate student Kelly Anderson never thought she would compete against MBA students at a national business-plan competition and take second place.

She made her mark after a rigorous two minutes in an elevator pitching her business plan to a venture capitalist and a 20-minute presentation in front of an intense panel of venture capitalists in the Babcock Elevator Pitch Competition held April 1-2 at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Out of the 70 MBA teams that applied to the Babcock Elevator Pitch Competition only 25 were selected. Anderson was the only one to enter the competition from BYU.

Anderson's experience in business started last year when she had the idea to create a themed experience retail store similar to "Build-A-Bear" or "American Girl" called "Princess Sweet." With the help of the Center for Entrepreneurship at BYU and current BYU MBA students she developed her idea into a business plan.

The object of the competition is to make the situation as real-life as possible giving the contestants only two minutes to pitch their business plan to a venture capitalist (VC), who is also a judge, while ascending 28 floors in an elevator. The contestants ascend twice in the elevator with two different VCs.

"It was a boot camp experience. The venture capitalists were simulating how real VCs would be and they made you feel a lot of pressure," Anderson said.

On the elevator the VCs could do whatever they wanted. They could wear sunglasses, look at their PDAs, drink a soda, talk on their cell phones or get off on any floor, anything that simulated real-life experiences.

"I lucked out and got a really nice VC. He had his 13-year-old daughter with him so I knew he would identify more with my pitch," she said. "The other VC I pitched to was also more comfortable to pitch to than some of the VCs I heard about."

The Center for Entrepreneurship has provided Anderson with the mentoring, resources, encouragement and opportunities she needed to make her business plan succeed and receive exposure for possible funding.

"This has been a personal and incredible mentoring opportunity that is very unique. I feel like I am an example of why the Center for Entrepreneurship was created, because I am not an MBA student," Anderson said.

Besides participating in the Babcock Elevator Pitch Competition, Anderson also placed in the top 10 at the BYU Business Plan Competition, took 3rd place in the BYU Elevator Pitch Competition and was selected to compete in the Rice University Business Plan Competition where she placed 12th out of the 36 teams that competed.

Anderson doesn't think it's odd that a theatre arts and media graduate student is participating in the MBA competitions.

"My theatre background has helped me with the 'corporate theatre' style of these competitions. You have to be confident in front of an audience and be convincing enough that they will listen to you and believe your business model will be successful," she said.

She plans to open her first "Princess Sweet" store six months after she receives funding.

Writer: Rebekah Hanson

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