Business competition awards $100,000

PULLMAN – The WSU Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the College of Business, took place in Pullman April 11-12.
The two-day event included more than 100 competitors in four divisions, including two WSU divisions, and high school and non-student divisions. For the first time winning teams from the inaugural College of Business Global Business Plan Competition competed in the competition. More than 45 teams presented their plans to a panel of judges from the business community, with the winning teams sharing cash and prizes totaling $100,000.

For the first time, the competition included a high school league, consisting of two teams from Pullman High School. This is the second year that the competition included an open league, sponsored by the Port of Whitman. The open league included five teams: two from Pullman and one each from Clarkston, Colfax, and Dayton. WSU leagues included both undergraduate and graduate teams, with participants from campuses in Pullman, Spokane, and Tri Cities, as well as the college’s international campus in Brig, Switzerland.

Each team gave a 15-minute presentation followed by an intense 15-minute question and answer session by the judges. The panel of 40 judges included members of the business community: entrepreneurs from successfully launched businesses; those who are currently participating in an innovative business; venture capitalists; angel investors; and bankers. Judges based their evaluations on the following criteria: quality of the idea; quality of the communication of the idea (written and oral); likelihood of success of the plan; and demonstrated knowledge of the entrepreneurial process. One winner from each of the WSU student leagues continued on to present on the second day; the high school and open competitions were completed in the first day.

“I was extremely impressed by the quality and professional work accomplished by WSU students. As a Silicon Valley veteran who has either worked or reviewed untold number of high tech plans, I was especially surprised at the high caliber of the students’ written and oral presentations,” says competition judge John Glass of Anchor Bay Technologies in Los Gatos, Calif. “This level of competency bodes well for the future prospects of these truly gifted students. Kudos to the business school; this is another one of the many occasions where my pride in being a WSU alum is continually being reinforced.  Go Cougs!”

Undergraduate first place honors went to entrepreneurship majors Bryan Saftler, Ali Arian, and Chris Henry and public relations major Jeremy Cross for their business Free Inke, an online university apparel store. Two teams tied for second place: Camp Harmony Shellfish, a geoduck-harvesting company presented by Igor Jurcevic, international business and Daniel Underwood, entrepreneurship; and Watercycle, a bicycle-powered irrigation pump for use in Africa, presented by team members Brendan Dallas, a mechanical engineering major, bioengineering majors Cory Cole and Angel Hall, and management and operations major Nick Murray.

Graduate first place honors went to second-year MBA students Bobby Enslow, Erika LiaBraaten, Jeremy Stalberger, and Kelly Welden for BrainWorks, a wireless EEG device for use in clinical settings. Second place honors went to MBA team Northwest Nanodiagnostics, comprised of Kyle Finkberiner, Miljana Mijic, and Jacqueline Thompson and computer science graduate student Bojana Ginovska, all from the Tri Cities campus, for their chemical agent testing devices for use by the US military.

Open league and high school winners were announced during dinner after the first day of presentations, co-hosted by the Palouse Economic Development Council. In the open league competition, first place honors were awarded to Kevin King of Pullman for his venture which would market Omega-3s extracted from algae. Second place honors went to Tom and Cheryl Kammerzell of Colfax for their eco-tourism venture that would allow tourists to participate in the daily operations of a family-run farm, and third place honors went to Douglas Lee of Clarkston for his creation of hot tubs that are heated using alternative fuels.

The high school awards went to first place winner Dawoud Kazimee for his business Juice Orchard, a fresh-squeezed juice bar, and second place winner Jacob Spencer for The Green Grocer, a fresh produce market which would offer organic produce, as well as meats and dairy products, to the Pullman community.

Additionally, two teams were given honorable mentions for their business plans: Full Circle was honored for the best non-profit business plan for their business which would offer microfinance solutions to artisans in India and BlueGreen Consulting was honored for the best “green” consulting business plan.

“The business plan competition is an outstanding learning opportunity for all of the participants. The interaction with the judges gives everyone involved a chance to better understand how to launch a new venture, while also elevating the learning beyond the normal academic experience,” said Len Jessup, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. “We expect to continue to see more and more students and community members take advantage of this extraordinary experience.”