Collegiate entrepreneurs ready to win one of two $10,000 prizes

September 10, 2010

WV Statewide Business Plan Competition adds category to encompass state's #2 industry

West Virginia’s collegiate entrepreneurs have until September 28 at noon to enter a competition that will award two $10,000 prizes, as the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition begins its fifth year. A cash prize is awarded to the top entrepreneur in each of two categories in a competition that will now feature the state’s second-largest industry — hospitality and tourism.

“The Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition provides a platform for students to turn great business ideas into real, West Virginia businesses,” said Governor Joe Manchin. “The competition helps these students cultivate their ideas, and that is the true spirit of entrepreneurism. Helping to create and grow businesses in West Virginia is a critical component of the state economy.”

The business plan competition, which is hosted by the West Virginia University Entrepreneurship Center, will still feature two categories, but those categories now include Lifestyle & Innovation and Hospitality & Tourism. As West Virginia continues to build upon its national and international hospitality and tourism reputation, the competition now allows for business plans relating to that industry.

“The Hospitality & Tourism category is for products or services with relevance to hospitality, restaurants, hotels, tourism or related fields,” said Mindy Walls, Director of the WVU Entrepreneurship Center. “The Lifestyle & Innovation category is for products or services that are part of daily life or new innovations. They can be the introduction of new products or services, or new methods or techniques on existing products or services.”

“We have changed the categories to Lifestyle & Innovation and Hospitality & Tourism because hospitality and tourism is the second-largest industry in West Virginia,” said Walls. “While the competition takes place in an academic setting, it is not an academic exercise. We give away real money and we are looking for real businesses in the end. The purpose of the competition is to promote economic development in West Virginia, and what better way to do that than to make this a focus in the Business Plan Competition.”

In addition to the two $10,000 cash prizes, the winner in each category will receive a bundle of professional services. That bundle includes legal services, accounting services, and either virtual or physical office space in the West Virginia University Incubator. The overall value of the services package is $6,600.

In the four years of the statewide competition, 304 collegiate teams have entered from 12 different higher education institutions in West Virginia. A total of eight winning teams have won $80,000 in cash, 40 finalist teams have received $40,000 in cash and over 100 volunteers from the statewide business community have assisted student teams.

“It works,” Walls said. “The competition has awarded valuable cash prizes and professional services packages to help get these businesses started, and it is directly responsible for the creation of 15 new businesses in West Virginia.”

The competition is open to any full time, four-year college student. A three- to five-page summary is due by September 28 at noon to enter the competition, which spans the entire academic year and three elimination rounds. Walls said students of any major and class rank may compete and all that is required to enter is a business idea. As students progress through the competition, they receive education and support to turn their idea into a viable business plan. To be eligible for advancement in the competition, all submitted business proposals must be located in West Virginia.

The investment in the competition goes well beyond prize packages, Walls said. Up to five finalist teams will be announced in each category in December, and each finalist team will receive a $1,000 stipend in February to help defray costs incurred in the development of their business plans.

Go to www.be.wvu.edu/bpc for further information on the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.