Last year I was privileged to be a member of one of the final teams in the Gigot Center’s McCloskey Business Plan Competition at Notre Dame. The months-long competition allows entrepreneurs with a Notre Dame connection to refine their business plans, receive mentorship, and compete for prizes that include resources and funding. Having made it from the start all the way to the semifinals I was able to see many parts of the McCloskey process. Because the McCloskey competition is hosted by the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame, there is a special focus on innovations that promote social good.
I was on team DOSE Health. Our product focused on how families, caretakers, medical personnel, or care organizations could remotely manage and monitor medication adherence. Our focus was on ensuring those who are elderly, have memory issues, or are homebound can better manage their medications. Medication adherence issues have broad and costly impacts on healthcare delivery. Our solution focused on reminders, remote monitoring, and medication organization. Our focus as part of the McCloskey competition was on refining our business model and gaining visibility or connections to help further our product.
Because I was the only current student on our team when we made it to the semifinals, I was tasked with the entire presentation and Q&A session for my team. This was no small undertaking and I spent weeks preparing every word in my pitch. When it came time for the Q&A session, one of the judges asked how our product was socially conscious and why we deserved to be in this competition. Though McCloskey is not limited to social enterprises, this judge decided to put me on the spot and ask a very specific question. DOSE was not intended to be a social enterprise; our goal as I had just delivered it was to sell to specific parts of the healthcare continuum. We didn’t even frame our mission to be socially driven; it was all presented in terms of dollars in terms of medication adherence.
In the seconds it took me to formulate my answer I thought through all of our product features, our target market, and the benefits of our product. My answer was simple. Though DOSE wasn’t social by nature its mission was simple–peace of mind. We helped children monitor their parents and ensure that they were taking their medications. We helped healthcare providers ensure patients were adherent. We helped people who struggled to take their medications as prescribed adhere. All of these pieces, when put together are inherently good and beneficial. Therefore, our product could fit a greater purpose by providing peace of mind and better care.
Later at a reception for the winning teams (we placed in the top 5) the woman who asked that question came up to me and admitted that we had one of her favorite answers. She went as far as to nominate us for a social award for the product with the potential for the biggest social impact. We discussed additional opportunities for DOSE and what it meant to have a greater purpose.
Since this discussion almost one year ago, I have often wondered what existing corporations could do to better society with only a little ingenuity. Indeed, in a Social Innovations course I am engaged in, we have already read of several companies that have accomplished much for those at the bottom of the pyramid. I get truly excited, however, when I think about companies that are just starting and what they can do for society as a whole. With just a small shift in perspective, sometimes prompted by asking one simple question, their entire outlook and focus can change for the better. As I’m concentrating in entrepreneurship at Notre Dame, I know I will take this perspective to heart and be sure to incorporate this question in my ideation process for each new venture. Imagine if more people were to do the same . . .
Mary Carol Madigan is a second year MBA at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business where she studies Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Originally from Chicago, she spent several years before coming to Notre Dame working in the healthcare industry in Minneapolis. In her free time, Mary Carol volunteers in the community and is a Referee for USRowing.