Students learn business planning through UNM competition

Daniel Teahan and Kyle Thordahl think they might have the next Chipotle or Panera Bread — a fast casual restaurant concept with major growth potential.

Pulse Burger, the University of New Mexico students say, will resonate with those who consider not only their health but the health of the planet when eating out. Pulse specializes in beef-free patties made from the likes of beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas (and sometimes chicken), meaning they have less cholesterol and fat than a regular hamburger and also a lower impact on natural resources like water.

“We like the effect it can have for people’s health and the environment; we’re just really passionate about both these things,” Teahan said. “In addition, we think it could make a lot of revenue.”

Their confidence is built upon months of consumer surveys, financial modeling and other research completed as part of the University of New Mexico’s Business Plan Competition. Seventeen teams entered this year, vying for nearly $100,000 in total prize money across two divisions: one for technology and another for more general entrepreneurial ventures.

Teams came from UNM — Teahan and Thordahl are both UNM Anderson School of Management students — but entrants also represented New Mexico State University and Central New Mexico Community College.

They had to submit written business plans, give 15-minute presentations to judging panels culled from the New Mexico business community and then stand for 15 minutes of judges’ questions.

The competition is meant to springboard student- and alumni-led businesses and, ultimately, generate economic development across the state, according to Alberto Solis, the business plan competition’s interim director.

Teahan and Thordahl, who earned second place in the entrepreneurial track, say they are serious about developing Pulse Burger and gleaned valuable skills during competition preparation.

“I think I learned a lot more about the formulation of a business concept and really the necessary steps,” Thordahl said.

MagPi Innovations from NMSU, which sells a portable scientific laboratory setup that works with different modules, took the $25,000 first-place prize in the tech division. The UNM-affiliated Mesilla Valley Pharmacy, a business-to-business startup focused on long-term care facilities, won the entrepreneurial track for $25,000.

Second- and third-place finishers also earned cash awards of varying amounts.

But winning this year, the competition’s 13th, also comes with something more than cash: sustained mentorship. Solis said winners will continue meeting with local business leaders and other advisers, who can provide guidance on issues like market research and government contracting.

“We want to leverage the people who are willing to mentor them and the programs that are out there to help them,” Solis said, noting that UNM will also for the first time parcel out the prize money when the winners reach certain established benchmarks rather than distribute it in one lump sum.

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