Day: April 12, 2011

Business Plan Competition Ramps Way Up: $30,000 for First Place

Judges complete evaluations during the 2011 business plan competition.

“How do I sign up?”

That’s the question Bob Mark, professor of practice in the School of Business and Economics, is going to get asked a lot.

The reason?

His Business Plan Competition, with modest awards, just joined forces with Central Michigan University’s New Venture Competition to the tune of $30,000 for first, $10,000 for second, and $5,000 for third place.

Held at Central, at least initially, the competition will pit teams of undergraduate or graduate Tech students against CMU students. They come up with ideas for new companies and how to make them come to fruition.

“And next year, it could be even higher,” Mark said.

The competition will be extended to an all-day affair of each team making three presentations in front of three different panels of judges.

“This makes us part of one of the top competitions in the country,” Mark said. “I can’t recall any this large, other than Rice University’s graduate student-only competition.”

Mark sees more training sessions ahead for the Tech teams to match Central’s semester-long workshops for their competition.

“Now we do three sessions: one on executive summaries, another on identifying your market, and one more on the financial numbers you need in a business plan,� he said.

Additional changes will include putting the training sessions on the web (via a grant), and greater numbers of teams are anticipated to advance to Mt. Pleasant next year.

“We had seventeen teams begin this year’s competition, and only six continued to the end,” Mark said. “The increased monies will make a lot of the teams want to stick it out.”

By comparison, Central, with 28,000 overall enrollment and 2,200 in its business school, had 23 teams competing at their New Venture Competition that was just completed.

Tech could do well.

“They didn’t have a lot of high-tech businesses planned,” Mark said. “Their winner had a smart phone app for shopping, second was replacing rollers for conveyor belts, and another had plans for bamboo plantations.”

Microbreweries were also prevalent in the plans.

“We’ll be able to hold our own,” Mark said. “We will have to focus on our presentation and communication skills.”

A trip across the bridge could begin the trip of a lifetime, if the Tech students do their homework.

Like Jess Tompkins, a junior in management, did this year. She took second this semester in the Tech’s Business Plan Competition.

She used her prize of $500 to register her women’s outdoor apparel business, Two Bows LLC. “I will definitely be working to join next year’s competition,” she said.

Jacob Carlson, a finance major, agrees: “The partnership with Central presents students with a great opportunity to increase awareness of their business ideas, network and bounce ideas off of each other, and receive a large investment that can have a great impact on their business.”

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor