MUSC students in finals of national business plan competition

Roby Hill
July 22, 2021

A team of MUSC pharmacy students had a great idea… and it turned out to be one of the best in the country.

With help from faculty advisor David Shirley, Matthew Brock ’22 and company put together a business plan for a hypothetical veterinary compounding pharmacy that landed them among three national finalists in the 2021 Good Neighbor Pharmacy National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition, the NCPA announced on July 16.

The team of Brock, Erin Dougherty ’24, Brandéa Hardie ’24, Amanda Newton ’22, and TJ Parkman ’22 will present their plan live at the NCPA Annual Conference, which takes place in Charlotte, N.C. on October 9-12.

All three teams in the finals will compete for a first prize of $3,000 donated to the NCPA student chapter and an additional $3,000 donated to the college, with a second-place prize of finalists bringing a similar split of $2,000/$2,000 and third-place with $1,000/$1,000. The other finalists are from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science College of Pharmacy and the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy.

“The students did a phenomenal job preparing their business plan,” said Shirley, who worked in an independent compounding pharmacy before joining the college as assistant professor of clinical pharmacy and outcome sciences. “They did their research, studied the market, and developed a truly compelling case. I’m proud of them, their achievement, and delighted they are being recognized with this national honor.”

sample collateral from NCPA competition

Mount Pleasant Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy

They could end up with more than honor, if some savvy investors catch the presentation. The team’s proposed business is the Mount Pleasant Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy (MPVCP), which would be the only dedicated pet-only community pharmacy in the Charleston area. The region has become a hot spot for pet owners and veterinary services have accordingly mushroomed, but animals’ medication needs are met by either limited in-house pharmacies at veterinary offices or by business extension at community pharmacies. The MPVCP would be a new niche pharmacy expecting to gain significant market share within three years.

Unlike most new ventures, this business could be welcomed by the “competition.” Veterinary offices typically provide pharmacy services as a customer convenience, not as a big profit center. Having a pharmacy available that has unique expertise in compounding for animals – and that can stock more and a greater variety of animal drugs – would be boon for veterinarians, their customers, and their four-footed patients. Where others might see competition, the team behind MPVCP sees potential partners.

“Veterinary pharmacy is a very different animal, so to speak,” Brock said. “Most vets aren’t experts in pharmacy and most pharmacists aren’t experts in veterinary medicine. It’s a stretch either way. We think veterinarians would welcome this pharmacy. We can alleviate some of the services, answer questions about medications, and free up some vet facilities.”

Compounding, or custom-creating a medication from scratch, is a must for treating animals. As any pet owner who has stuffed a pill into a kibble knows, subterfuge and misdirection is required. Compounding allows the pharmacist to create a liver-flavored paste for a finicky cat, a special topical gel that stays on a turtle shell, or a sticky substance hamsters will step in and lick off their feet.

Specializing in compounding is one way independent community pharmacies try to compete with the national chain store pharmacies. Brock looks to bring together the assets of both in creating a thriving new independent.

“Chains are extremely efficient and can establish best practices quickly, so we tapped into the team members with that experience to look into automatic systems, inventory control, and that kind of thing,” said Brock, who has an MBA from The Citadel through MUSC’s concurrent program partnership. “Inventory is key, especially in the compounding world. If you’re wasting a lot of material in a compounding setting, you’re throwing dollars away. We don’t want to pass that kind of expense on to the customer.”

The business plan reflects that kind of detailed thinking. It includes an overview, description of the business, floor plans, loan request information, market analysis, competition analysis, marketing plan, and financial plan. The team has approached the competition with thoroughness and strategic planning from the outset.

“We started thinking about this competition last year,” said Brock, who was then-president of MUSC’s NCPA chapter. “We knew we wanted an independent pharmacy, so we started talking about what we like and how can we be innovative, not just in technology but also in services. We started looking for niche areas that are being underserved. That’s how we got into veterinary pharmacy.”

See the press release and more information in the NCPA Newsroom

About the Author

Roby Hill

Keywords: College News, Awards, Alumni News