Concept for urban grocery store wins Ideas Challenge

Author: Christine Cox

With just 60 seconds and a business plan based on an avocado, Notre Dame seniors Christina Gutierrez and Genevieve Crum won the 2014 Ideas Challenge contest on Tuesday, October 7 at the Mendoza College of Business.

Their idea for a network of socially responsible, affordable urban grocery stores called Aguacate (the Spanish word for avocado) bested 75 other one-minute “elevator” pitches by students during the Ideas Challenge, held before a standing room-only crowd in Mendoza’s Giovanini Commons. For the victory, determined by audience vote, the Aguacate team won $500 cash. 

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Gutierrez (left) and Crum

“Christina and I are passionate about sustainability in the food industry and food justice issues,” says Crum, an environmental science major. “A mutual friend connected us this semester, and by the end of our first lunch, we had decided to start working on this idea.”

Gutierrez, who is majoring in political science and romance languages, said she and Crum practiced their 60-second pitch for a week before the competition. Neither has a background or experience in business.

Crum and Gutierrez draw similarities between their business and an avocado. Aguacate grocery stores would be “green” in a sustainable sense. They would bring people together in a positive and festive way, much like guacamole. And the “seed,” the business plan, provides a foundation for a delicious, nutritious and unique fruit, in this case stores that will benefit communities.

“We have been solidifying our business plan and mission, pulling together resources and seeking advice from professors and fellow students,” Crum says. “Initially, we were inspired by the Monroe Park Grocery Co-op in South Bend, and incorporated that same mission of promoting sustainable, nutritious food in a way that is affordable and serves those most in need. We truly believe that business and ethics are a powerful combination, and we are very excited to see where all this will lead.”

In the near future, it will lead the Aguacate team to the McCloskey Business Plan Competition.

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The McCloskey competition is a six-month contest that awards $300,000 in cash and prizes each year. The competition — open to Notre Dame students, faculty and alumni —consists of four rounds that grow increasingly detailed and in-depth. The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, which sponsors the competition, connects teams with business experts from the Irish Entrepreneurs Network to serve as mentors to the teams as they develop their business models and hone their business plans.

The deadline for Round 1 of the competition is October 31 and requires teams submit documents including an overview of the business concept, target market, competitive landscape and financial potential for the venture. (For complete details, visit the McCloskey Business Plan Competition website.)

The purpose of the Ideas Challenge, which is open to current students only, is to generate excitement and spur participation in the McCloskey competition. The Ideas Challenge allows students to casually drop in and present business ideas in a time span no longer than an average elevator ride.

Other Ideas Challenge winners included:

2nd Place: Kelsey Sobczak, Best Music On Campus, an online music competition to help musicians get access to the music industry

3rd Place: Abby Huber, Aerofit, airport fitness centers where travelers work out during layovers

Best Social Idea (selected by the Gigot Center’s entrepreneurs-in-residence): Tiffani McCormick, Spectrum Innovation, solutions for autism

Best Health Care Idea (selected by the Gigot Center’s entrepreneurs-in-residence): Sean McGee, child abuse prevention technology

To learn more about the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, please visit gigot.nd.edu.