CSOM competition spotlights local businesses

Ed Swaray

When University graduate Pete Bianco established Recovery Care in 1998, it was a small business that provided counseling to orthopedic surgery patients. When he sold it in 2002, it was a thriving enterprise.

Bianco is lending his expertise and providing funds to the Carlson School of Management’s first case-writing competition, which focuses on Minnesota companies.

Cases detail the development of a new product or venture.

“Local students can benefit greatly by having local companies as benchmarks when they study cases on early-stage companies,” Bianco said.

Sponsored by the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students in business administration at any Minnesota college or university, said Dileep Rao, professor and one of the competition’s organizers.

Students who graduated in 2003 can also participate.

The competition has three categories. Each will have five winners with prizes ranging from $200 to $3,000, Rao said. The Carlson School, private industries, financial institutions and various individuals are funding the competition, he said.

The judges – who include Carlson School professors, and private and financial institution professionals – will look for the best-written cases, not necessarily the most successful ones, he said.

Over the years, students have mostly studied cases about companies not based in Minnesota, Rao said. He said it was time to focus on companies in the state.

“There is nothing to say we cannot study Minnesota ventures and Minnesota cases,” he said.

Graduate student David Man agreed. He said the competition is a great idea that provides local and regional perspectives on Minnesota companies and gives students the opportunity to learn about the challenges companies face.

“As business students we are familiar with using case studies in the classroom,” he said. “This competition would be a good learning experience for us to write our own cases which could be used by future students.”

Man, whose entry will focus on health care, she said hopes more students will participate in the competition.

Rao said the competition gives students a real-world experience on why companies do what they do.

“One of the goals of the competition is to teach students how and why new ventures and new product-based businesses succeed,” he said. “And the challenges faced in the development of new product and ventures.”

Graduate student Mark Nahlovsky said it was an

opportunity for students to interact with entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities.

“It is also a great way for them to promote their own business and share their stories and experiences,” he said. “And I am hopeful that it could be a great teaching tool as well.”

He said the competition is unique because it focuses on local companies that students are familiar with.

Harry Sapienza, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said the competition falls within the realm of what the center is dedicated to: research, teaching and outreach.

He said the competition provides students with hands-on experience on the trials and tribulations of early-stage

companies.

“Looking at an organization as it grows over time is like a living history,” he said.

The competition’s deadline is April 2 and winners will be announced at a special event the first week of May. A free workshop to teach students how to write cases is scheduled for March 10 at the Carlson School.