G.R. Waters Story

Fostering the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

GR WatersFor more than a decade, College of Business Administration students in the Competitive Marketing Edge program (CME) have been leaving their imprint on San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire businesses. In this learn-by-doing class they have created strategic promotional plans, benefiting businesses such as Westfield Santa Anita Mall, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the Claremont Club, Pacific Palms Resort and about 140 other local firms. And, every step of the way, Management and Human Resources Professor G.R. Waters has been there to oversee its success. 

Now, Waters is part of a new CBA venture – the annual Cal Poly Pomona Bronco Business Plan Competition aimed at budding entrepreneurs.  Waters, along with MHR professors Deborah Brazeal and Mujtaba Ahsan, have plans to expand the competition in 2013 to make it bigger and more successful. The ultimate goal is help those Cal Poly Pomona students with the best business plans receive the knowledge, money and connections to make their ideas a reality.

Waters met with Public Information Officer Marisa Demers to talk about his projects and how entrepreneurs are changing the way business is done.

What is CME and why has it become successful over the years?

Waters: While the entire Competitive Marketing Edge Program is relatively complex, in a nutshell, it is three things: (1) a student consultation team, (2) a selected local business client, and (3) a full written strategic promotional plan for one year developed by the team and the client.  The process occurs over a 10-week period during spring quarter – March to early June.  Prizes are awarded to the best promotional strategic plans as judged by a panel of marketing professionals at the CME awards banquet in June.

The student consulting team is composed of one or two graduate or MBA students, and one or two   undergraduate students participating in two courses simultaneously team taught by two faculty members.  The two courses include one undergraduate – BUS 492 Consultancy and one graduate course GBA 574 – Promotional Consultancy. The Competitive Marketing Edge program was first developed in spring 1999 with testimonial success.  The process has been enhanced each year from the 1999 experience and CME 2012 promises to be the best yet.

We’re not trying to do everything for everyone. We focus on promotions only, and to control quality, we have kept the program small with a limited number of quality students forming exceptional consultancy teams. The program is attractive for both undergraduate and graduate students due to the unique coaching process and perhaps the prize money competition. 

Because of this coaching/competition format, student consulting teams become quite competitive.  Pressure builds to win and provide something of value to a client. The payoff is complex – perhaps a cash prize of as much as $1,000 per person, but more importantly an enormous sense of pride in creating something of value. In a few cases individual team members have been offered career opportunities by the client.

Over the years, we have had very strong supporters and sponsors who have helped us offer prize money for students. For years our best sponsor was PFF Bank and Trust, which was acquired by US Bank who also supported us for two years. Now, we’re fortunate to have the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership as our sponsor.

Tell us about the inaugural Bronco Business Plan Competition of 2012.

Waters: This competition is primarily funded by exceptional CBA alumni and faculty. These gracious donors wanted to promote new businesses from the bright and energetic students of Cal Poly Pomona and to showcase potential new businesses in emergent new technologies, software,  Internet and consumer businesses.  The participants received valuable feedback and potentially financial support toward a successful business launch.  The first Bronco Business Plan Competition provided a forum for the best new business ideas to emerge and be evaluated and improved.

Mujtaba Ahsan and Deborah Brazeal and I initiated the competition in spring 2012 by requesting a short summary of the business plans by March 30. Everyone then had to submit the fully completed business plan by May 4.  Workshops were offered on plan writing and presentation for those needing assistance. The 20 submissions were narrowed to a few finalists who then presented orally to a five judge panel on the scheduled May 17 culminating event. The oral presentations were similar to the fast pitches so common in venture forums with very short and timed oral summaries of the prospective businesses. The five judges all provided valuable feedback to the finalists as well as providing important contacts for improving the entrepreneurship program at Cal Poly Pomona.

Overall, we were surprised of the success of the competition. We all learned a lot toward improving the program. We would like to team up CBA students with students from other colleges like Engineering, Environmental Design, Agriculture and Science. This simulates the real world process of entrepreneurship team formation.  A group with disparate backgrounds comes together toward creating a venture.  Each member makes a unique contribution.  Entrepreneurship today is a team effort. 

We have plans for growing our entrepreneurship program at Cal Poly Pomona.  Last year we added MHR 426 - Social Entrepreneurship for students who want to make a contribution to society and possibly support themselves at the same time.  Perhaps in the future we can bring these programs together under one entrepreneurship center.