In Spring quarter, several MS in Entrepreneurship students participated in the UW Business Plan Competition (BPC), hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. This multi-stage competition provides students with the real-world experience of being an entrepreneur—and connects them with Seattle’s entrepreneurial community. We asked three MS in Entrepreneurship students to give us a behind the scenes look at what it’s like competing in the BPC*. Next up, meet Madeline Bennett, MS in Entrepreneurship student and CEO/Founder of hearing protection company Otogear.
Making hearing protection fun to wear
As an undergraduate, Madeline majored in Speech and Hearing Sciences here at the University of Washington. For a class project on hearing disorders, Madeline decided to address the “stigma associated with hearing protection” by turning them into “fan wear” and “fun to wear.” Her professor, impressed with Madeline’s work, encouraged her to apply for the 2015 Business Plan Competition—where she ultimately made it to the investment round. Since then, Madeline has competed and placed in competitions like the 2016 OSHA Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge (3rd place), the 2017 Ignite Washington InnovateHER Pitch Competition (2nd place), and the 2018 Science and Technology Showcase (2nd place in best market strategy). After being featured in Geekwire, Madeline realized that she wanted to do more with Otogear. Three years after that faithful class project, Madeline is enrolled in the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program and her company, Otogear, is back in the BPC.
What’s it like participating in the BPC?
Madeline describes her first entry to the BPC as “exciting and terrifying” noting her lack of entrepreneurial knowledge and experience. Now that she’s been in the MS in Entrepreneurship program, she feels much more comfortable when it comes to handling business facets like financials. “Now I understand how to get these numbers to be more realistic,” says Madeline. “I know how to really show and understand the costs of starting a business.” The BPC has been a confidence booster in other ways. Madeline reports that her public speaking skills have improved and that she feels like she can really achieve her goals. “What I really learned about myself is that if I really put my mind to something, I can get it done.”
Madeline’s advice for future BPC competitors
- Stay organized: “School is hard,” says Madeline. “Starting a company is hard. Combining the two is really hard, but it’s not impossible.”
- Stay positive: “There’s going to be times where you feel really overwhelmed and you’re going to want to go to the negative place but that’s not the right thing to do.”
- Have a really strong support group to “help you get through the real stressful times”: Madeline’s fellow MS Entrepreneurship students have been there to support her and help her out with photography and reviewing her business plan for typos.
- Have fun: “It’s been an amazing experience,” says Madeleine. “Cheer each other on and cheer each other up.”
What’s next for Madeline and Otogear?
Madeline is looking to scale Otogear and participate in more competitions and accelerators in the area. She’s also planning to apply for Jones + Foster Accelerator program, which opens its application on June 15 (The deadline to apply is July 2).
Learn more about the MS Entrepreneurship program and the Business Plan competition:
- Visit the MS in Entrepreneurship website
- Visit the Business Plan Competition website
- Read more entrepreneurship blog posts
*This interview took place right before the selection of the final four. Read more about the 2018 BPC winners here.