The Ferguson Innovation Challenge

Ferguson Ventures has partnered with the Entrepreneurship Center to offer a new challenge to students. This semester, student teams will work to solve one of four problems, of their choosing, in the hopes of winning internship opportunities.

Note: Registration for the 2021 Innovation Challenge is now closed.

Pick your problem:

  • Contractors can struggle to build strong relationships with their Homeowner customers. How might Ferguson assist contractors with this challenge, using digital tools?
  • Home maintenance and repair on equipment items (such as HVAC units, appliances, and water heaters) for some homeowners are “out of sight and out of mind” until the day something breaks. How might we encourage homeowners to think more proactively about home maintenance and efficient equipment that results in lower cost of ownership and brings additional benefits to the environment?
  • Homeowners show interest in smart home systems, but they don’t have a grasp of the options and they face challenges with the complexity of understanding ecosystem compatibility. How might we help homeowners easily understand their own preferences and product needs, then get the help they require with installation and support?
  • Plumbers may visit Ferguson counters multiple times during the day to pick up materials between service jobs they are completing for their homeowner customers, because they often do not know the job to be done at the next customer’s house before they arrive. How might we enable plumbers to anticipate customer needs?

Over the Course of the Year You Will

Give a Mid-point Presentation

February 13

Your team will give a speed pitch styled presentation of ideas. Members of the W&M Entrepreneurship Fellow, Ventures Associate, and W&M staff/mentors/workforce will all provide feedback and insights.

Attend a Challenge Kickoff Event

November 15

During the Kickoff Event you will be provided with a Ferguson introduction into the project. You will be able to form your team at the event. You will also be able to attend a Peebles tour as well as more working sessions with mentors and team members. And yes we will have our lunch together as a team!

Pitch Your Ideas

March 6

Teams will present their elevator pitches to a panel of judges from both Ferguson and William & Mary.  The winners will be announced at Pitch Day.

Some Important Notes

Five Teams Total

Though we will accept applications from anyone interested in the challenge, the challenge stipulates that only the top five team applicants will participate. Take some time when you apply – it will pay off in the long run.

Team Mentors

There is a decent chance that you may not have any experience with this industry. Fortunately, Ferguson will be providing mentors for every team. They will help you in all stages of the project, so your team can put its best foot forward.

Prizes

First Place: $5,000

Second Place: $2,500

Third Place: $1,000

Ferguson Ventures will also be selecting one of the pitches to pursue over the summer. All students who participate will be up for a few internship positions that will focus on making the selected project come to life.

Meet our Mentors

Mike Buck Headshot

Mike Buck

• Fleet Analyst

Mike Buck‘s responsibilities entail combining procurement, industrial engineering, systems design, finance, safety, and operations management.  Having a sales background prior to his time at Ferguson, he understands the pitch process from both sides of the table.  Mike is an advocate for free and open-source software solutions to gain insight and solve complex problems, using languages like R and Python.  Mike manages Ferguson’s powered industrial truck fleet, which is around the 15th largest in the United States.

Lorrie Carter has been with Ferguson for over six years and is currently a Senior Manager with the Digital Commerce team focusing on training, communications, and business process alignment. In addition, Lorrie is an adjunct business instructor at ECPI University, helping students learn how to best launch and market their own business ideas. Throughout her career, she has successfully designed and implemented integrated marketing and communication plans and strategies across multiple industries. Lorrie is a graduate of William and Mary with an MBA in Marketing from Florida Tech.

Lorrie Carter Headshot

Lorrie Carter

• Sr. Manager of Digital Commerce
Laura Cozart Headshot

Laura Cozart

• Sr. Category Manager

Laura Cozart has spent her 14-year career with Ferguson HVAC focused on solutions that drive contractor growth and engagement.  Past focuses include sales, training, and eCommerce; today, she serves as Senior Category Manager for Connected Home.  She is passionate about providing solutions for her customers to strengthen and diversify their business by leveraging the consumer demand and emerging technology that Connected Home offers.

Bob Pride has been a founder and mentor for startups in the construction, real estate, and technology sectors.  His core competency is in technology development and implementation, including the associated business operations.  His functional experience includes technical sales, operations, IT management, and finance for companies in the manufacturing, retail, wholesale, and real estate industries.  Bob’s current role is with Ferguson IT Security on the governance, risk and compliance team. Bob has a BS in management information science and an MBA in general management.

Bob Pride Headshot

Bob Pride

• Information Security GRC Team
William Stutz Headshot

William Stutz

• Sr. Marketing Business Partner – Commercial & Residential Trade

Billy is currently responsible for the marketing strategy for Ferguson’s Commercial and Residential Trade channels. He develops and implements marketing plans that are executed on a nationwide scale, working cross-functionally with multiple internal and external teams to deliver best-in-class programs and promotions to target customers.  Prior to joining Ferguson, Billy held various positions in corporate retail, leading global Merchandising, Sales and Marketing teams responsible for managing marketing plans for the US Military and large companies such as Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, and 21st Century Fox.  He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.

Activity Checklist & Due Dates

  • Problem Statement Decision + Team Identity + Project Outline – 2/05/2021 by 9 AM – Send Team Name, Problem Statement choice, and Project Outline to Nick (njdantzlerward@email.wm.edu)
  • Mentor Check-in/Video Updates2/01/2021 through 3/05/2021
    • 2/01-2/05 : First Weekly Video Update + First Mentor Meeting. (Submit video AT LEAST 24 HOURS before First Meeting with Mentor) This week’s video update includes:
      • Team introductions
      • Selection of Problem Statement/why this statement appeals to you
      • What did your team learn from your initial research for this statement?
      • What is your team’s current thinking of the problem statement?
    • 2/08 – 2/11 : Second Video Update + Mentor Meeting + Brief Progress Statement. This week’s video update answers the following:
      • What do you and your team hope to learn from customers?
    • 2/12 : Challenge Satisfaction Survey #1: https://millerec.typeform.com/to/xlnpdoAB
    • “How Might We” Presentation2/15/2021
    • 2/15 – 2/19 : Third Video Update + Mentor Meeting + Brief Progress Statement. This week’s video update answers the following:
      • What did you find out from customers that surprised you?
    • 2/22 – 2/26 : Fourth Video Update + Mentor Meeting + Brief Progress Statement.
      • What ideas might address the needs you’ve uncovered?
      • How might you prototype that to test your assumptions (MVP)?
    • 2/27 : Challenge Satisfaction Survey #2: https://millerec.typeform.com/to/X8dxjTD5
    • 3/01 – 3/04 : Fifth Video Update + Final Mentor Meeting. This week’s video update answers the following:
      • How has MVP testing gone?
  • TENTATIVE: MVP & Final Pitch3/05/2021
  • TENTATIVE: 3/05 : Challenge Satisfaction Survey #3: https://millerec.typeform.com/to/mEu1CJ0w

Frequently Asked Questions

How Big can the Teams Be?

Teams can be from 3 – 5 members. We will be selecting the top five team applications from the pool of applications.

What if I want to participate, but cannot commit to a Summer Internship?

No problem – just mark down your availability on the form! We will not consider this question when determining your acceptance.

Can I get an internship even if I don’t win?

All contestants will be considered for a Ferguson Internship! (SO to answer your question, yes, yes you can.)

A note regarding IP

While Ferguson may choose to incorporate aspects of any of the Innovation Challenge ideas in future internal initiatives, no team or individual is precluded from further pursuit of their concept after the competition concludes.

Registration is Now Open!

Join us now for this exciting journey! Click here