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‘New Venture Competition’ encourages UWRF student entrepreneurship

October 24, 2014

UW-River Falls is introducing its “New Venture Competition,” as a part of a bigger statewide competition.

The competition is meant to encourage entrepreneurship in students here at UWRF and give students a way to put their ideas into some kind of action.

“The New Venture Competition’s really what people would think of as a business startup competition,” said Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry. “It’s an opportunity for students who have an idea to start a new business to propose that idea and then to win up to possibly $4,000 to support that idea. Then the top two teams from our campus will be entered in the ‘Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament,’ which is another opportunity for students to win all sorts of other resources to help start up that business.”

Students cannot just have an idea themselves and enter the competition, they must form a team.

“Teams are comprised of one to three students at the undergraduate level who are at least enrolled part-time, as well as one faculty or academic staff mentor,” said Director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development Danielle Campeau.

The competition consists of multiple teams competing to come up with and prove the best idea.

There are multiple steps that students go through during this competition after they find their teams and select the product.

“The first thing is there’s these two-page business plans, and then we will be asking entrepreneurs from off campus to come and judge these ideas,” Fry said. “When they go to the website you’ll see the nine categories that we’re asking people to provide information in—and again, it’s only two pages long, so for each of those nine categories you don’t have to put too much. Those ideas will be judged using those nine categories, ten points each and another ten points for the creativity of the idea. Among those first round of ideas, finalists will be selected.”

If students win or get in one of the top places, they have a lot to look forward to by competing. Besides going to the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament, they also get prizes in the form of money.

For the team who comes in first place they get a $3,000 business stipend and a $1,000 cash prize.

The team that comes in second place gets a $2,000 business stipend and a $750 cash prize.

The team that comes in third place gets a $1,000 business stipend and a $250 cash prize.

Students must use the business stipend for starting or growing the business idea that they used in the competition.

“We will let people know by mid-January if they are a finalist, and then in early March students will then be asked to present their ideas in what we call a trade show type format: poster, tables to display their product, and really the key there for those next rounds is about how people adjust their ideas based on the feedback they get from entrepreneurs and potential customers,” Fry said.

The first, second and third place competitors will also have a chance to meet Daymond John, founder and CEO of Fubu and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Even the funding for this project is something that the university is proud of.

The campus isn’t paying for any part of the competition because it is funded by donations.

“It is funded entirely by off campus sponsorships,” Fry said. “$5,000 is coming from Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament; another $5,000 is coming from WiSys, which is a technology foundation. So, for instance, say a faculty member on our campus has a product they want to patent, WiSys helps them with that. And then another $2,000, being used strictly for cash prizes, is coming from Fiberstar, which is a highgrowth food additive company here in River Falls.”

There are multiple important dates coming up relating to the competition. On Nov. 7, the D2L course becomes available for competitors; on Dec. 15, the two-page business plans are due; on Jan. 15, 2015, the campus finalists are announced; March 4, 2015, is the exhibit hall of finalists; on March 15, 2015, the campus winners are announced; and on April 4, 2015, the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament takes place.

“I’m very excited to support entrepreneurship on campus here at the university,” Campeau said. “So far some of the ideas I’ve heard from students are absolutely amazing, and to be able to support students, not only through cash prizes, but just supporting them through the process of starting up a business idea is, I think, very exciting. I’m really happy to help here in River Falls and into the business plan competition world.”

For information about the New Venture Competition, you can go to http://bit.ly/1zm0pRw.