SMU business plan competition offers more than money

Love for food and of world renowned chef, Gordon Ramsey are just a few things that drove SMU graduate student Taylor Gillig to co-found The Cookery, a hands-on cooking and eating experience in Dallas’ Design District.

“The Cookery creates a unique, immersive experience, where our guests feel relaxed and at home,” Gillig said. “Our goal is to make cooking more approachable through hands-on involvement rather than demonstrations.”

Gillig is already looking to spread class locations throughout Dallas. In an effort to grow the brand, Gillig is bringing The Cookery to SMU’s 16th Annual Business Plan Competition Friday, Feb. 17.

Gillig is no stranger to the competition. He is returning as the reigning champion.

Gillig (holding check, left) and his team in the 2016 business plan competition.

Seven teams will compete in the 16th Annual Business Plan Competition Feb. 17 in the Collins Center. The prize money exceeds $70,000 this year, with over half awarded to the first place team.

“This is the basics of selling any idea, even if you are at a large company and you’re trying to sell the idea of the chain of command, this is real life experience,” said Doug Lunn, a SMU Business Competition Judge. “Pitching to some real investors, people who run large companies.. this is something people are going to have to do anywhere in their career, whether they become an entrepreneur or not.”

Gillig is using his experience and knowledge from last year’s competition to try to win again this year.

“I don’t think the Cookery business plan that we executed would have been as good, or as successful, if I didn’t have that experience in my background,” Gillig said.

Gillig said participating in last year’s competition has given him more than just the awarded money.

“Going through the process of taking an idea and formulating a plan on how to execute that idea is invaluable,” Gillig said. “I learned more last year about business and pre-application of the things that you learn in class than just the application of a plan of action.”

Learning from experience in the competition does not stop once the competition is over. Gillig’s teammate in 2016 and fellow SMU graduate, Marc Orgass, emphasized the support provided by the judges’ post competition.

“Those people will connect you to some more people and in the few months following. All of the combined advice was very insightful,” Orgass said. “Those things helped me look at the problem of starting a company from a much higher viewpoint and really kind of uncover what a lot of people talk about.”

The Cookery offers interactive cooking classes led by a culinary instructor. Participants cook a three to four course dinner using locally sourced with organic ingredients. The menu that is being prepared is available during registration and changes seasonally. Each class has 14 spaces, and participants register online beforehand.

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Menu at The Cookery Dallas

Even if a competitor is not planning on becoming an entrepreneur, the skills used in the business plan competition can help lead to success in other career paths.

For Gillig, Friday’s competition is a chance for him to grow the Cookery brand.

“We can further increase our awareness,” said Gillig. “There’s going to be a lot of people there that are within our demographic, and the kind of people that would take our class, so just to also let them know we exist.”

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