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Ability Center wins Marquette's business plan competition

April 15, 2011

Wauwatosa resident Damian Buchman's business plan for building and operating an athletic facility for the physically disabled won Marquette University's business plan contest this week.

The plan from the Ability Center took the Social Venture category in the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship's Business Plan Competition. Rules require that entrants have a connection to the college, so Buchman partnered with two friends who, like Buchman, have survived cancer.

Marquette undergraduate student Adam Petraglia and alum Austin Cappelle, a finance and international business graduate, rounded out his team.

Buchman said he didn't enter expecting to win. He was up against professors and students completing advanced degrees.

"A business plan was something I've been meaning to do for two years," he said. "I really saw this as a tool to force me to sit down and get it done."

He participated in six workshops that offered resources and coaching. But he took another step and met with last year's winner, Teecycle owner Tim Cigelske, for advice. It could be a secret to success because Cigelske and his predecessors also took that step.

"I essentially kept that streak alive," Buchman said.

The competition can be decided on character, specifically the judging panel's belief that the contestant can pull off what's promised in the document, Buchman learned.

"My motto has always been 'failure is not an option,' " Buchman said.

Winning entitles the Ability Center to in-kind donations of accounting and other business services to help make the plan a reality. But Buchman sees a bigger perk: name recognition among the six charitable foundations sponsoring the competition.

"It provides a stronger and more reputable case as we talk to people about fundraising," he said. "This does launch us so we can take this (campaign) to the next level."

For information about the Ability Center, go to tacwi.org.

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