Inaugural Business Model Design Competition connects high school students with MU faculty

Inaugural Business Model Design Competition connects high school students with MU faculty


For high-achieving students at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, it’s never too early to prepare for a career in the business world.

On March 4, dozens of high school students as well as their parents and faculty administrators from Bishop O’Connell gathered at Marymount University’s Ballston Center for the inaugural Business Model Design Competition. Established by the University with coordination from faculty in Marymount’s College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology (BILT), the Competition featured a series of information and learning sessions covering both broad and specific topics related to business that were aimed specifically towards high school students. The event culminated in the students presenting business plans to panelist judges from Marymount, Bishop O’Connell and Arlington Economic Development (AED).

“The way we live, work, play and learn is undergoing great changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and other impactful forces we are seeing in the world,” said Dr. Carlo Ninassi, Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing at Marymount University and organizer of the Business Model Design Competition. “For today’s youth to succeed in the careers of tomorrow, they must be educated on and prepared for these changes that are resulting in a ‘new normal.’ This brand new Competition is a way for Marymount to address this need in ways that are both educational and fun for all involved!”

“As a former entrepreneur and Entrepreneurship Center Director, I personally know how critical it is to be exposed to these ideas as early as possible,” added Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University. “With the success of this Business Model Design Competition, we are planting the seeds and giving these students a glimpse of where education and entrepreneurship can take them in the years ahead. Also, as the only university to call Arlington home, we are providing them an in-depth look into how they can receive a world-class business education right here in their own backyard.”

Marymount University faculty provide business plan coaching to students during the inaugural Business Model Design Competition

Students from Bishop O’Connell were divided into six teams, consisting of three to four people each, as they competed to present the best business plan. Throughout the day, Marymount faculty members from the School of Business and Bishop O’Connell faculty delivered coaching and personalized feedback to teams during brainstorming sessions, while students soaked in knowledge of a variety of business topics – mission and vision statements, SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis, competitive advantages, target marketing, demographics, financial spreadsheets, strategy, supply chain mechanics and more.

Marymount Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Hesham El-Rewini also addressed the high school students at a work session.

“It’s so important for Marymount to forge ongoing and lasting relationships with high school students in the local area, as we’re able to both promote business awareness through this new initiative and also instill confidence as they progress towards higher education,” Dr. El-Rewini explained. “This creative method of engagement offers benefits to everyone, with students from Bishop O’Connell gaining valuable exposure to the college experience while Marymount faculty collaborate with high school students who are the best and brightest in their class.”

Marymount University faculty provide business plan coaching to students during the inaugural Business Model Design Competition

During the presentation section of the Competition, teams focused their business plans on modern topics such as electric vehicle charging stations, roommate matching apps, online clothing retailers and cryptocurrency mutual fund management. After their 15-minute presentation, teams received questions and comments from the three panelist judges of Dr. Sarah Spalding, Associate Dean of Marymount’s College of BILT; Marian Marquez, Director of Business Investment at Arlington Economic Development; and Bill Crittenberger, Head of School at Bishop O’Connell High School.

The winning team of students Ava Godfrey, Aisling Flett and Emma Lavallee presented a plan titled, ‘Limelight Theaters,’ which explored how a business could offer unique movie experiences.

Next year, Dr. Ninassi says he plans to expand the Competition to students from other area high schools as well in order to orchestrate an even more exciting experience.

Bishop O'Connell students with Marymount faculty at the inaugural Business Model Design Competition