Team TougHER takes on the Louisville Cardinal Challenge

The Louisville Cardinal Challenge is an annual business plan competition held in Louisville, Kentucky. Hosted by the University of Louisville, the Cardinal Challenge is one of the first events of the business plan competition season and offers students seeking to launch a business an opportunity to measure up to their counter parts from around the nation. The 2016 edition was sponsored by Brown Forman and offered thousands in prize money and services to the winner.

The competition had an opening round of four tracks with three teams within each track. The winner of each track moved on to the final round. Those teams who didn’t advance out of the first round competed in the 60-second quick pitch competition within the competition.Team TougHer at the Cardinal Challenge

The Team TougHER journey began in the opening round where we presented second out of three teams. Our presentation went well and we felt confident coming out of the Q&A session. Our opening round track included a team specializing in a new natural and organic chicken feed that fought diseases in chickens and a team who created a new solid-state rocket fuel source. Needless to say, we quite a challenge in front of us.

Later in the day, the competition hosted a luncheon with all the teams and announced the winners of each track. Unfortunately, Team TougHER didn’t successfully emerge from the opening round. The team pushing rocket fuel edged us out by the narrowest of margins.

Next up was probably the part I found to be most valuable. After lunch we were guided to our feedback session with the judges who evaluated both our presentation performance and the overall quality of our business plan. The judges provided critical feedback and assured us that we weren’t far off from a winning plan and pitch. Once through with the feedback session, our fearless leader, Stacey, put together a pitch for the 60-second quick pitch mini competition.

Stacey competing in the fast pitch for team TougHERFor the quick pitch competition, the moderator called up each of the eight selected speakers from each team and then randomly selected who would pitch. The presenters were allowed no more than 60 seconds which was then followed by two minutes of time for the judges to make notes and score the pitch. After a nerve-racking half hour, Stacey was selected to pitch last. Realizing that she was missing important details of our business in her original pitch, Stacey scrapped the pitch she prepped and free styled the pitch. Later than evening at the awards banquet, it was announced that Stacey had brought home the title for the quick pitch division along with $1,500 for the business.

As a native of Hawaii, I never thought I would find myself bundled up in 19-degree weather in the heart of Kentucky. I knew the Oregon MBA was going to challenge me in many ways but I never expected to be pitching in front of panels of entrepreneurial experts and other MBA’s and PHD students. It made me really value the multiple speech classes I took in high school.

This business plan competition offered me a chance to not only see what my counter parts across the nation are doing, but it also gave me a chance to see just how well I stack up to the competition. After this experience, I can confidently say that Oregon MBAs are just as competitive as any other out there. It was especially cool to see all the different innovations that others are working on and how they view the landscape of their respective industries.

Overall, this experience provided a ton of learning points and exposure to things that I never imagined. I now know more about solid-state rocket fuel than I ever thought I would. I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team and for the opportunities that the Oregon MBA has given me. Next for Team TougHER will be the New Venture Championship in Portland, April 7-9. We hope to see you there!

Written by Brawnson Adams

Brawnson is a 2016 MBA from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. A native of Hawaii, Brawnson has an extensive background in retail and an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business.