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Northern Colorado Business college hosts sixth challenge

By Chelsea Hinspeter
On November 10, 2014

For the sixth time, entrepreneurs will be able present their business ideas and compete for $50,000 and business incubator services from BizHub in the annual Monfort College of Business Entrepreneurial Challenge. Services provided by BizHub include coaching and workshops.

While the challenge provides applicants with funding for their business ideas, it also functions to provide helpful feedback, exposure and experience. 

Once applicants are picked, they compete in a series of presentation challenges and hone their business plans. 

Competitors will be narrowed down in three stages: the preliminary challenge, the summit of ideas and the E-challenge finals. Each stage of the competition will be televised by 9News.

“These business plan competitions are so much more than just a bunch of people competing for money,” said David Thomas, who is the assistant professor of management and director of the Entrepreneurial Challenge. “We’re really talking about people’s lives here. We’re talking about livelihoods. We’re talking about families. We’re talking about growing economic development in communities.”

The challenge focuses on students, UNC’s environment and the community of Northern Colorado. Thomas also said it helps hopeful individuals break into a small business role, gives back to the community and provides fundamental experience for students in business.

About eight years ago it was decided that UNC needed a program to promote entrepreneurship. Thomas said they envisioned something that would help entrepreneurs out of garages and basements and into professional business relationships. 

Each year applicants bring a variety of ideas to the competition, but Thomas said that all of them have a couple things in common. Each one seems to identify a current trend early enough to be able to use that for their success. Competitors have also identified an unmet need and produced an idea to address that need.

Because these entrepreneurs are competing in front of judges, they not only get great exposure and help launching their ideas, but they also have to create sustainable business plans.

“These are people with a lot of background that can really help a new business get off the ground,” Thomas said.

Matt Fater and Aaron Fodge, co-founders of Branch Out Cider and second place winners of the third annual Entrepreneurial Challenge, said they put more thought into their venture knowing that experts were going to dissect their idea.

“We made a conscious decision to be as conservative as we could possibly be with how many apples we thought we could collect, in terms of poundage, so that nobody could argue with our financial estimates,” Fodge said. 

Not everyone successfully moves on in the challenge, but speaking with business experts and learning of ways to improve a business plan is also immensely important, Thomas said.  

Most organizations or professionals require individuals to pay very large sums of money for the same advice contestants receive from experts at the challenge. 

The challenge also compels hopeful small business owners to focus on finishing their business plans on a deadline. 

The competition is open to students and to prospective entrepreneurs throughout the Northern Colorado area. 

Applications for the challenge are due online at mcb.unco.edu/events/echallenge on Dec. 1.


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