Home improvement meets the Net Contest: A University of Maryland MBA candidate's plan to start a home-improvement resource center online wins a business plan award

Entrepreneurship

June 16, 1998|By J. Leffall | J. Leffall,SUN STAFF

Long before Tim Allen made it big with his hit show "Home Improvement," it was "Tool Time" in the Enger household.

As soon as Kyle Enger was able to, he helped his father, an entrepreneur who ran a bank consulting business, tackle home improvement projects around his Seattle house.

Years later, Enger has come up with an entrepreneurial venture of his own, and it's enough to make any do-it-yourselfer -- or father -- proud.

Enger's plan for Superbuild.com, an online resource for the purchase of home improvement products, beat out 24 other entries to win the Chief Executive Officers Club of Baltimore's third annual business plan competition. He is to receive his award today.

"Me and my father remodeled every room in the house, and my father started his own company, so the inspiration kind of came from that," said Enger, an MBA candidate at the University of Maryland. "It was natural to go back to school so I could train to be my own boss."

The CEO Club of Baltimore consists of local chief executives who run businesses that have more than $2 million in annual sales.

Enger, 27, spent his undergraduate years at the University of Washington majoring in history, and lived for a while in Seattle, home to many of the country's high-tech upstarts.

It was in Seattle that he met his partner, John Kueber, an Internet strategist.

"My partner and I had talked about this before I came to Maryland and came to school," Enger said. "We saw this as a perfect opportunity to follow through on the plan, and everything just kind of happened in perfect sequence from that point."

What attracted Enger to Maryland was the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the university, which fosters the development of students who want to own their own business.

Sandra Nola, associate director of the Dingman Center, sits in on classes and observes students while they formulate business plans.

Nola said she knows what the contest judges look for in a good business plan. She adds that she wasn't surprised when the club announced the winner.

"Typically they choose winners based on originality and viability of the plan, and more important, how realistic the plan is," she said. "Every year it seems the winner has an even more exciting new and realistic idea for a company."

Doug Strouse, president of ALR Reporting Inc. in Baltimore and CEO Club president, called Enger's plan innovative and comprehensive.

"With the advent of new technology in respect to the Internet, this plan has a tremendous likelihood of success," Strouse said. "He had great forecasts, and he's really going into this at a time when electronic commerce is a coming of age phenomenon."

Last year's winner, Allen Wolff, won the competition for his plan to introduce BD's Mongolian Barbecue franchises to the Baltimore-Washington area. Wolff's store is now open in Bethesda and doing well, Strouse said.

The 1996 winner was Tara Gorman, who outlined a plan for a community-based monitored fitness center for the disabled called Health and Fitness For All.

"These are real plans, and a lot of our students are typically doing business before they even graduate," Nola said.

In keeping with that tradition, Enger's Superbuild.com is already working with wholesalers of home improvement products in hopes of distributing those products. Enger would like to raise $350,000 in start-up capital to assist in reaching a customer base of 20,000 by the end of its first year of operation.

Superbuild will make its money by taking a cut of every sale. Chat rooms and how-to hints are also some of the features slated to accompany the web site.

This summer, Enger is working as an intern at Friedman, Billings and Ramsey & Group Inc., an investment banking firm in Arlington, Va.

Part of his job is helping to determine whether an initial public offering makes sense for a particular business.

What he's doing now is right up his alley because he plans on taking Superbuild.com public in the next five years.

While his short-term goals are launching the site and spearheading his own IPO, Enger said his long-term objective is simply longevity. "This is a brand new market and it's hot," he said. "We plan on taking this as high as we can take it. E-commerce is already prevalent right now and it's going to explode even more in the future, and we want to be part of that explosion."

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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