2016 WFU School of Business Retail & Health Innovation Challenge provides a platform for revolutionary ideas
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The next imaginative idea to benefit consumers, patients, or healthcare professionals might be born in the creative concepts presented at the Fourth Annual Retail & Health Innovation Challenge. Hosted by Wake Forest University School of Business and its Center for Retail Innovation, the Challenge is sponsored by CVS Health.
Thirteen teams of student innovators from some of the top colleges and universities around the country offered their revolutionary ideas to a panel of industry judges at the Challenge, held November 11-12, 2016. This year, Wake Forest School of Business teams took two of the top four spots as selected by the industry experts.
Winning concepts ranged from wearables, to testing devices, to nutritional supplements. The common thread among all these ideas was providing inventive solutions to problems at the intersection of retail and health. Each team was competing for cash prizes totaling $41,500.
“I think this competition is sensational because I love hearing what the young minds are thinking about and how they approach problems,” said Oray Boston, vice-president of OTC strategy for Johnson & Johnson, who served on the judges’ panel. “It’s never from the traditional standpoint. They’re always coming at it from a different angle. To see how they bring their passion and their knowledge and their view of the world to these problems is very exciting and fun.”
Here’s how the Challenge works: each team has two minutes to pitch their innovative idea to industry experts – no products, demonstrations, or materials allowed. At the end of the first round, four teams are selected as finalists. Each is invited to give the judges a 30-minute presentation to offer more information, display or demonstrate prototypes, and answer questions.
A hallmark of the Challenge is the extended time in the final round, according to competitors like Jordan Vanderham. The senior product design and manufacturing engineering student from Grand Valley State University in Michigan said he’s never had 30 minutes to explain his concept in other competitions. “You can put your heart out there and share everything. It’s less scripted, so it’s more of an organic conversation. You can be yourself and show the passion you have for your company.”
Vanderham and his Orindi Ventures project earned first place and a $25,000 check for a cold endurance mask that helps industrial workers or asthma sufferers maintain a warm breathing environment in extremely cold conditions. Second place and $10,000 went to a team from Clarkson University for their herbal tea made from Chaga mushrooms that offers antioxidant benefits.
The Resilience Project, a Wake Forest team that featured senior business and enterprise management student Jake Teitelbaum (BS ’17) and Master of Arts in Management student Sophia Faltin (‘16, MA ’17) took home third place and $5,000. They offer cancer patients the opportunity to partner with them to design and manufacture fun socks. Half of the net profits from the sale of their sock design go to the patient or their charity of choice to help pay for medical treatment or research. The Accelerated Nano Technologies team of Wake Forest MBA students who attend the program in Charlotte pitched a testing device that uses carbon nanotube technology to detect lung cancer biomarkers in small blood or tissue samples for earlier diagnosis and treatment. They won $1,500 as a finalist in the Challenge.
“Our technology is going to save lives,” said Accelerated Nano Technologies team member Dave Pearson (MBA ’17), who balanced his weekend on-call rotation as an emergency department physician with the Challenge. “The competition has been incredible. The feedback from the judges was phenomenal. They provided us insights, which will allow us to pivot and explore new directions for our company.”
For the first time, students from the School’s Master of Arts in Management (MA) program served as co-chairs for the event, which has been run by students since it began 16 years ago.
“This experience has been so rewarding,” said Taylor Ross (MA ’17), who handled logistics for the competition as one of the chairs. “I’ve never planned an event before, so it was really fun getting the logistics together and utilizing my communication background while coupling it with the business skills I’m gaining in the Master of Arts in Management program.”
Representatives from CVS Health, Johnson & Johnson, Bellomy Research, Inmar, the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, Sales Factory + Woodbine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, WestRock, Wake Forest University School of Business, Wake Forest Innovations, and ITT served as judges during the competition.
“This has clearly been one of our most outstanding competitions yet,” said Roger Beahm, WestRock executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation. “We had more than 25 teams apply, and as a result, we had a very high-level of competition. All of the ideas this year were very innovative and worthy of winning the competition.”
The Challenge was held at Wake Forest University School of Business and the new downtown Wake Forest Innovations home at Biotech Place. This is the fourth year that CVS Health has been the lead sponsor of the event.