In January, 18 MBA students from the University of Maryland headed across the pacific to Beijing to compete in the 8th Annual China Business Plan Competition. This annual event, co-hosted by the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, brought together entrepreneurial students from the United States, China and Israel, to see who can deliver the best pitch for their innovative business idea that leverages Chinese resources. The Smith teams made a strong showing, with three teams making it to the final round of competition, and one Smith team taking the grand prize! We caught up with Yuan He, apart-time MBA student and sole team member of the winning team, Honeymoon Honey, to get his thoughts on the competition and the trip:
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Yuan (pronounced “one”). I am currently pursuing both an MBA and an MS in Finance at the Smith School. At Smith, I serve on the boards for Net Impact and Finance Association as well as participate in the Global Equity Fund as a managing member. I also hold a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Outside of school, I run my own company called HY Financial, LLC, as an independent registered investment advisor helping individuals reaching their financial goals. I also hold a position at the Defense Information Systems Agency, working in acquisition and system engineering.
Q. What was the business idea that you pitched and how did you come up with the idea?
The company that I pitched at the competition is called Honeymoon Honey. Basically, the honeybee population has plummeted since the 1950’s and it has become more and more challenging for farmers to pollinate their crops. In some countries, farmers have even resorted to pollinating their crops by hand. At Honeymoon Honey, we rent honeybee hives to these farmers to help them increase crop production while reducing the amount of manual labor needed. We then take the honey produced by the rented beehives and make them into high quality cosmetic products.
I got the idea from my friend Andy, who was also the very first friend I made in the U.S. some 20 years ago. His wife’s family had long been making honey based products as a hobby and would occasionally sell their products at the local farmer’s market. Andy saw the business potential in honey products and came to me in 2011 with the idea that eventually became Honeymoon Honey. We have been working on the business ever since.
Q. How was your experience at the China Business Plan Competition?
It was an awesome experience! The advice and feedback from Prof. Bob Baum, John LaPides, and Elana Fine of the Dingman Center were invaluable, and the experience of learning how to put together a pitch was very rewarding. Both Bob and John would always be able to identify new areas for improvements at end of each advising session. I went in to every session wondering “what can they possibly say now?” The difference between my initial pitch and what I presented at the finals were definitely night and day.
Of course, it all pays off in the end when you’re standing before the judges and full audience at the final round. I am sure would not have been able to win the competition without everyone’s support, and I am thankful to the Dingman Center for that memorable moment.
Q. How was the rest of the trip? Would you recommend it to other MBAs?
My trip was a little different than rest of the group since I used to live in Beijing, but I would highly recommend the trip and the competition to all other MBA students. There are a lot of opportunities in China, especially in this modern era, and I encourage other students to visit China and learn about what these opportunities can mean for them. Taking classes inside the walls of Van Munching Hall may be exciting enough, but it’s what you do outside those walls that will make your MBA a memorable experience.
Q. What are the next steps for Honeymoon Honey?
The future is very exciting for Honeymoon Honey. We are actually currently in negotiations with a few national retailers in the U.S. who are interested in working with us. In addition, I had several meetings with local VC firms in China after the competition that opened new doors for the business as well. Don’t be surprised if you see Honeymoon Honey in China in a few years.
Q. Any general advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You’ve got to love your business and believe in it before you can make others believe in it as well. When you really believe in your idea, it makes more thoughtful about your business, hungrier for advice, and more passionate in your pitches.
Since 2006, more than $200,000 has been awarded to promising entrepreneurs in the China Business Plan Competition co-hosted by the Smith School’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. The CBPC is held as part of a week-long global studies trip and satisfies 3 credits of the Smith Experience MBA curriculum. The competition and trip is open to all UMD students at any degree level. For more information please visit our website at: http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/dingman/students/CBPC/