International Business Model Competition Awards the Girls Co. First Prize

PROVO, Utah – May 31, 2019 – With over thirty countries and more than six hundred universities represented at the International Business Model Competition (IBMC), student entrepreneurs need to bring their A game to succeed. This year, a team of three women from BYU Marriott took home the $40,000 grand prize for their company, the Girls Co.

The three founders of the Girls Co.–Zoia Ali from Southlake Texas; Abby Warner from Holladay, Utah; and Taimi Kennerley from Orem–represent half the female population in their graduating class within the BYU Marriott entrepreneurship program. Banding together, the three women created their company to address a pressing need they recognized among women. The Girls Co. Period Belt (patent pending) is a wearable, all-day heat pack that allows women to live their lives normally, despite debilitating menstrual cramps. “Period cramps affect so many women,” Ali says. “So we were surprised to discover something like this didn’t already exist.” 

The IBMC, which is different than traditional student venture competitions, centers on the process entrepreneurs undertake to eliminate uncertainty around their business ideas. During the competition, competitors recount their journey of testing and validating key assumptions of their business idea with customers, the lessons learned, and how those learnings informed changes to their business model. 

“Everybody learned something,” says David Binetti, creator of the Innovation Options framework and one of the final event judges. “The judges as a group were incredibly impressed by the teams that competed, and we don't say that often.” The final event judging panel also included Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and creator of Lean Canvas; Brant Cooper, founder of Moves the Needle and a New York Times bestselling author; and David Bland, founder and CEO at Precoil.  

According to Binetti, the most impressive aspect of the competition was the grip each competitor had on the fundamentals of principles and methodologies espoused by the competition. “Every competitor from top to bottom knew and understood those fundamentals,” he says. “Regardless of who wins, each participant gains a better understanding of how to create new products and behave like an entrepreneur under conditions of uncertainty.”

The Girls Co.’s effective use of customer validation and rapid iteration of its product ultimately won team members the grand prize. “The team didn't fall into any of the standard traps that a lot of people do,” says Binetti. “They didn’t delay or say, ‘Our product isn't perfect, and we’re not sure it will work, so we’ll wait to test it.’ The Girls Co. just went out there and did it. They were dead-on in terms of the approach.” 

The Girls Co. team members hope this win will inspire other women to begin and realize their entrepreneurial dreams. “One big thing for me has been empowering other women,” Ali says. “I have seen the need for female empowerment in entrepreneurship firsthand, and I am so grateful that my first startup can help women and encourage others to do the same.”

The IBMC is a two-day event. While the second day is the competition, the first day is mostly comprised of a Thought Leader Conference focusing on educating participants on the latest and greatest principles and trends in entrepreneurship and innovation. This year’s Thought Leader Conference included trainings and workshops from all four final event judges, and according to Jeff Brown, competition director and associate director of operations at BYU’s Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, it contained the most comprehensive training in the competition’s history. “Our four speakers this year are all world-renowned experts in their fields and often serve as the keynote speaker for events like ours,” says Brown. “To have them all in a single event was amazing, and our participants were extremely benefited.”

Forty student teams from around the world were invited to participate at the 2019 competition, held May 9-10 on BYU campus. Second place and $25,000 was awarded to Thrive Smart Systems of Brigham Young University; MMTutors of Myanmar Maritime University was third place with $15,000; RentCheck of Tulane University took home the $10,000 fourth-place prize; and Locker Lifestyle of Grand Valley State University was fifth place and won $8,000. In total, more than $200,000 in cash prizes were awarded with all teams winning at least $2,500. For a full list of all the teams and their placement, visit the past winners page of the IBMC website.

The International Business Model Competition was founded by Brigham Young University in 2010 and is the first and largest competition of its kind in the world. Its primary aims are to inspire and educate smarter student entrepreneurs. The competition focuses on the process entrepreneurs undertake as they test their most crucial business hypotheses with customers and develop validated business models. Ultimately the competition organizers believe this approach improves the success rate of new ventures, allowing entrepreneurs to save both time and money in the process. The IBMC is open to all students enrolled at accredited institutions of higher education anywhere in the world. 

The Girl's Co.
The Girl's Co. took home the $40,000 first place prize at the 2019 IBMC Competition.
Zoia Ali, Abby Warner, and Taimi Kennerley founded The Girl's Co. to address a pressing need they recognized among women.
Zoia Ali, Abby Warner, and Taimi Kennerley founded The Girl's Co. to address a pressing need they recognized among women.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Rollins Center Staff Writer