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USC School of Pharmacy to Make Debut Appearance in Student Business Plan Finals

by Michael Rule | Sep 27, 2017

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On Oct. 14, students from three pharmacy schools will make live presentations in the finals of the 14th Annual Good Neighbor Pharmacy NCPA Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. These presentations will be held during the NCPA 2017 Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla. and are open to Convention attendees (there is still time to register!). Those who attend are treated to fresh, innovative ideas from these aspiring entrepreneurs, some of which can be replicated in existing pharmacies.

Since the inaugural competition in 2004, in which six schools submitted entries, the contest has grown in popularity. This year, 34 pharmacy schools submitted entries, and, for the first time, a team from University of Southern California School of Pharmacy is among the three finalists.

The team will be represented by Lilia Earnest, Elizabeth Gonzales, Nicholas Holloway and Julie Shafer during the live competition. Holloway and Shafer outlined the team's proposal and shared their thoughts on the competition with NCPA.

NCPA: What made you consider a career in independent community pharmacy and to ultimately enter this contest?

Nicholas Holloway (NH): Independent community pharmacy allows you to use an entrepreneurial spirit to create something that is unique, adds value to the patients, and will advance the future of health care. Also, I wanted to learn how to formulate a business plan from scratch as I had never done this before.

Julia Shafer (JS): I have always known independent community pharmacy is my passion. The ability to genuinely care for patients and the autonomy to practice pharmacy differently are two aspects that initially drew me to independent pharmacy. I decided to participate in this contest because I plan to be an independent owner after graduation and knew this would be invaluable experience.

NCPA: Can you sum up the highlights of your proposed plan to purchase or start an independent community pharmacy? What makes the independent community pharmacy that you propose to purchase or open stand out from other retail pharmacies in the area?

NH: Our idea was to incorporate some traditional pharmacy services such as filling and consultations, and pair this with a holistic, wellness experience that would benefit patients in both disease maintenance as well as a preventative and personalized approach to individual health.

In doing so, our pharmacy aims to offer services such as a wellness bar that contains a variety of health-inspired cocktails as well as more modern services such as pharmacogenetic testing. We think this is a great example of where community pharmacy is going in the future and we wanted to create something that embodied that cutting-edge spirit.

JS: Our plan is a start-up independent pharmacy like no other. We are combining the feel of the "mom and pop" pharmacy with an ultra-modern kombucha bar in the heart of Santa Monica, Calif.

NCPA: For those who are unfamiliar with the competition, can you describe the time and effort that went into writing your business plan? How many hours a week? What was the most unusual or surprising thing you had to do in preparing? What about your preparations for the live presentation in Orlando?

NH: Luckily, we had a strong team that was able to delegate work across all parties involved. That being said, the business plan took a good amount of time (~20-40 hrs./person). I was responsible for both the financial and business description teams and spent >40 hrs in total working on this. The most difficult thing I found was the simple fact that we had no framework to follow since we were the first to submit a business plan from USC in quite some time. In preparation for Orlando, our core team of four has been meeting digitally to delegate tasks across the team. We also plan to meet in person two times in order to practice our live pitch.

JS: Creating a business plan is as challenging as it is rewarding. We had one-hour weekly meetings with our group of 10 students for most of the semester, where we discussed progress and made major decisions. Outside of this, we had smaller committees that met as needed to complete their section. Each committee spent approximately one to two hours per week on their designated section. The most unusual thing was making sure the location we selected had running hot water, which is a requirement by the California Board of Pharmacy.

NCPA: What else would you like to tell people about the competition?

NH: If you are remotely interested in community pharmacy, this competition is a must. Without this experience, it would be much more difficult to figure this out on my own, or, I would be paying many consulting fees along the way in order to get a business plan ready for investors. Additionally, I believe the skills learned in putting the business plan together are translatable across many industries, not just pharmacy.

JS: After participating in this competition, I know that when I am ready for ownership, I will have the knowledge to prepare the real business plan with confidence.

NCPA: What advice would you give students who may be interested in entering the business plan competition?

NH: Be prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to create a legitimate business plan. Also, always keep in mind your audience for this business plan; treat this as if you are going to present it in front of a group of investors and constantly ask yourself, "would I give me the amount of money I am asking for based on what has been presented before me?"

JS: Find a motivational and reliable team! Our team was so creative, we bounced ideas back and forth in every meeting. Finding people who are also passionate about independent pharmacy is also essential because this competition requires dedication.

NCPA: Anything you'd like to add regarding your pharmacy school or NCPA student chapter?

NH: The NCPA chapter at USC is continuing to grow and make progress each year. We hold events for our members that add value and context to their educational framework provided by the school. However, it is important to us that our members continue to be engaged in our process, for there are experiences to be gained in our organization that are simply not taught in class.

JS: NCPA at USC has fostered my passion for independent pharmacy. I would not be where I am today without the lasting connections and depth of knowledge gained from our student chapter!

Each of the three finalists will receive an award based on where they place:

  • First Place—$3,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $3,000 contributed to the school in the dean's name to promote independent pharmacy.

  • Second Place—$2,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $2,000 contributed to the school in the dean's name to promote independent pharmacy.

  • Third Place—$1,000 to the NCPA student chapter and $1,000 contributed to the school in the dean's name to promote independent pharmacy.

As an added bonus, the winning team will be featured in an upcoming issue of America's Pharmacist.