The Free Trade Alliance Education Foundation hosted the awards ceremony luncheon for its 4th annual International Business Plan Program on Saturday, April 13, within the Rackspace Corporate Headquarters. Students from 23 countries and 30 universities came together to learn how their international business plan measured up in a field of over 140 globally minded students. Winners receive their share of the more than $20,000 prize fund. The four finalist teams from the graduate and undergraduate categories present to high level executives just before the luncheon. These tough and experienced celebrity finalist judges included: Preston Atkinson (Whataburger), Kirstin Silberschlag (Valero Companies), Jane Macon (Fulbright & Jaworski) Maria Lulu Sobrino (Lulu’s Dessert Corp.), Aracely Garcia-Granados (MATT Foundation), Paul Duran (GreenStar LED Products, Inc.) and Bjorn Dybdahl (Bjorn’s Audio Video).
The Alliance began the International Business Plan Program as a way to help students develop the skills to compete and collaborate globally, develop their global network, and foster international relationships and understanding. Kyle Burns, Free Trade Alliance President & CEO, stated that “Through the program, students work on cross cultural teams of 4-5 students with an executive level mentor in writing a 10-12 page business plan. This is the only program of its kind that brings students from around the world together on a cross-cultural team. Adding to its relevance and importance in today’s global economy, many of the students and mentors never meet in person, simulating a multi-national work environment.”
Many of the projects are for companies that intend to implement the project, adding to the real world education the students receive. Each team has been mentored and judged by executives from companies such as Boeing, HEB, Port San Antonio, Holt Cat, Dixie Flag Mfg. Co, Rackspace and many more. “This program is a perfect example of bringing education and business together to develop future global leaders and prepare students for a multi-cultural workforce” said Peter Albarian, Director of the Education Foundation. “These students are learning well beyond the book and have gained tremendous practical experience in solving real business issues and communicating across cultures and time zones.” The success of the program has led it to grow in size and diversity for each of its four years. “Programs like this and others we provide continue and grow, thanks in part to support and sponsorship from companies like H-E-B and Rackspace.” said Albarian.
Program sponsors include H-E-B, Rackspace, NuStar Energy, Barton, East & Caldwell, Anne Marie’s Catering, Palo Alto College and the Instituto Cultural de Mexico.