Business Plan Team Takes National Award for Third Time in Six Years

By Ben Boulden

Two other student teams from the college had earned the Good Neighbor Pharmacy NCPA Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition in 2012 and again in 2015.

On Oct. 15, the association officially named the college’s 2017 team the winners, too. Other finalists were: the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy, first runner-up; and the University of the Pacific Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, second runner-up. There were 34 submissions from schools and colleges of pharmacy.

“We’re usually ranked in the top 10 in the competition and frequently in the top three,” said Schwanda Flowers, associate dean for Student Affairs & Faculty Development and associate professor in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy Practice. She advised the team along with Seth Heldenbrand, associate professor and associate dean of Experiential Education.

Kanesha Day, Hilary Dowd, Matt Garner, Levi Ellison, Stephen Stricklin and Jacob Thurlkill — all fourth-year UAMS pharmacy students made up the team.

The competition’s goal is to encourage ownership by motivating students to create a business model for buying an existing independent community pharmacy or opening a new pharmacy.

To prepare for the competition, a UAMS entrepreneurship class of 12 students divided into three teams, each writing a plan. The class’ winning team then fine-tuned the plan and prepared for the live presentation at the national competition.

Flowers and Heldenbrand taught the entrepreneurship class. Flowers concentrated her assistance as advisor chiefly on the written plan’s financial and marketing aspects, and Heldenbrand on the live performance.

The content of the student-conceived business plan focused on the purchase of a pharmacy in Little Rock and the implementation of new technology there to improve the customer experience. In their business plan, they introduced “smart caps” — electronic caps on pill bottles that light up when a customer forgets to take a medication on time; routing software to find the shortest path for multiple deliveries on a trip; and other innovations.

“It has to be real and feasible,” Flowers said. “There are lots of points in the plan for originality and feasibility and the ability to implement it. The biggest success is the number of students we’ve had who graduate and are going on to own a pharmacy or enter partnerships. In the last seven years, 10 to 12 students have gone on to own a pharmacy or are creating innovative positions for themselves.”

Besides the national honor, the team earned $3,000 in prize money for the college’s NCPA student chapter to send students to leadership activities and other meetings and another $3,000 in the name of the dean to promote entrepreneurship in the college. The team members, team advisor and the dean also will receive complimentary registration, travel and lodging to the NCPA’s 2018 Multiple Locations Conference.