The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center's annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition encourages Columbia Business School students to explore creative entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered "outrageous." All participating ventures give 90-second elevator pitches via video (see examples of this year's pitches here) and then speak to a panel of established venture capitalists and experienced entrepreneurs.
Each student is free to interpret the call for an "outrageous business plan" as they see fit; some create typical businesses that solve outrageous problems, and others create disruptive businesses that solve ordinary problems in an outrageous way.
Proposing the former this year was Panda Dog USA, a dog grooming company that serves pet owners desiring to style their dogs to look like pandas and other exotic animals. The judges' pick for first place, Cup and Compass, fell into the latter category. Cup and Compass is a company that intends to go head-to-head with companies like Coke and Pepsi at the beverage counter of "fast casual" restaurants by offering a delicious alternative: healthy, all-natural, and non-carbonated beverages. Attempting to disrupt the quick service drink market ruled by these monolithic brands can certainly be considered outrageous.
Past Outrageous Business Plan Competition winners have launched their outrageous businesses after graduation. Take second place winner in 2009, Jennifer Wright '09's business, environmentally conscious organization, inc. (e.c.o.), which successfully launched the GreenBox, a pizza box that breaks into storage boxes so consumers can divert waste from landfills. The box, made from 100 percent recycled material, easily breaks down into four serving plates, while the bottom converts to a small storage box -- perfect for storing a slice in one's fridge. Other "outrageous plans" that became full-fledged businesses include Shazi Visram '04's HappyBaby, a popular source of organic food products for babies, and KashPile, Bobby Singh '09's initiative to create a parent monitored e-commerce site tailored to help kids learn to save, spend, and donate responsibly.
A total of $14,000 is awarded annually to the resulting winners to help launch their ventures.
Here are some of the most outrageous business plans from this year's competition: