OCTOBER 01, 2007
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Pruitt- Schutte Student Business Plan Competition is tough. In the end, however, the participating pharmacy students learn the importance of hard work, leadership, and dedication.

The goal of the competition is to motivate pharmacy students to create a blueprint necessary for buying an existing independent community pharmacy or to develop a new pharmacy. ?It motivates students and teaches them more than they ever realized when the competition is done,? commented Jackie Lopez, PharmD, associate director of management and student affairs at the NCPA.

?The Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition provides a tremendous learning opportunity for pharmacy students to get hands-on experience in creating solid business plans in today?s extremely difficult reimbursement environment for prescription drugs,? said Bruce Roberts, RPh, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer. ?By giving these students the chance to develop and implement their business models and receive valuable feedback from pharmacy professionals, NCPA is able to better prepare tomorrow?s pharmacy entrepreneurs for a successful future.?

The 2007 student business plans encompass many segments of independent pharmacy ownership. The plans range from women?s health issues to wellness programs with corporate businesses to pharmaceutical care service that incorporates Eastern and Western medicine for the Chinese community.

In its fourth year, the competition has seen the number of applicants grow. This year, the competition has 32 applicants, compared with 16 in 2004. In addition, 6 new pharmacy schools are participating in the 2007 competition, according to Dr. Lopez.

Each business plan is graded on specific criteria worth a total of 200 points. The criteria include a summary of the loan request, description of the business, marketing plan, and financial documentation. The 2 main components of the business plan are feasibility/ability to implement (35 points) and originality and creativity (25 points). For the feasibility/ability to implement, the information presented must be applicable to the current pharmacy marketplace and attempt to accurately predict future performance. A core purpose of the competition is to encourage pharmacy students to think about how they would go about structuring their own pharmacy business and, ultimately, result in becoming a pharmacy entrepreneur. Therefore, the originality and creativity portion should provide new, innovative services to the community pharmacy marketplace.

The business plans are scored by a series of judges that include independent pharmacy owners, past presidents of NCPA, bank owners, and wholesalers. The top 3 finalists, who were announced at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy annual meeting on Orlando on July 15, will present their plans orally to a panel of judges at the NCPA Annual Convention in October. This year?s finalists hail from schools across the country:Washington State University, University of Buffalo, and University of Washington. The Washington State University team, including David White, Jacqueline Eide, Iris Kim, and Andrew Yancey, who are all in their third professional year, with Advisor Linda Garrelts MacLean, is building a plan entitled, ?Rxtra Care Pharmacy Business Plan.? The plan entitled ?Isabella?s Apothecare LLC Business Plan? has been developed by Alexandra Centeno, Kathryn Jones, Liliana Yohonn, Christina Ramsay, and Advisor Professor Karl Fiebelkorn from the University of Buffalo. All team members from Buffalo are in their third professional year. The team from the University of Washington has developed a plan entitled, ?East Meets West Pharmacy, LLP.? The team members from the University of Washington include Marlo Murray, Janelle Wilde, Ellen Smith, as well as Advisor Jacqueline Gardner. The winning team will be announced during the NCPA convention.

Whereas only 4 members of a team are allowed to participate in the live presentation competition for finalists, teams may apply with <4 members. In 2004, the third place finalist was a student who submitted a plan alone and today owns his own pharmacy, according to Dr. Lopez. Each team must have 1 team advisor that is an NCPA member or who is a fulltime faculty member at the team?s school of pharmacy.

Dr. Lopez said that student feedback on the competition has been positive. She said some students have commented that ?it?s hard work and they don?t know what they?re getting into until they finish the project,? or ?it?s the best thing they?ve ever done.?

The competition is supported by 2 champions of independent pharmacy? Neil Pruitt, Sr and H. Joseph Schutte?the NCPA Foundation, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

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