Students compete for $50k in competition

The third annual GW Business Plan Competition kicked off last week, with revamped efforts to help students and community members create a business proposal for the chance to win a piece of a $50,000 cash prize pool.

The popular but selective competition began in 2009 and has given hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present a business proposal for the possibility of an increasingly large cash prize.

“My philosophy is that we should try to improve the competition, every year,” John Rollins, the director of the contest and an entrepreneurship professor in the School of Business, said.

This year, Rollins said three aspects of the competition have changed.

“The most obvious thing is that we have additional funding, but part of that is specific only to undergraduate groups,” Rollins, who described himself as a “serial entrepreneur,” said.

Last year, the prize pool was only $30,000, and this year the increased pool will be used to raise the prize for first place to $25,000.

The monetary prize came from a public donation by Annette and Richard Scott, whose daughter graduated from the School of Business in 2005. Rollins said that for the first time one group of solely undergraduate students could also receive an additional $10,000 prize if selected as the top undergraduate competitors.

“In our competition at GW, everyone competes in the same single pool against other participants,” Rollins said. “Undergraduates feel that they have a disadvantage, so this is a special little incentive for them.”

The organization has also created a series of ongoing workshops designed to help participants plan for each phase of the contest, and has gathered a group of alumni and entrepreneurs in the District to serve as mentors throughout the program.

“Believe me, when you’re a student who has never started a business before and you have the opportunity to work with an adult, that’s worth a million bucks,” Rollins said. “I had that opportunity when I was starting out 40 years ago as an entrepreneur.”

Last year’s winning group – which included former Master of Business Administration candidate David Mathison – created a system of online videos that educates underprivileged citizens on how to take care of themselves after leaving an emergency room, and was awarded $20,000.

“It’s exactly what our country needs now, with 80 percent of new jobs in this recession coming from entrepreneurs,” Rollins said of the competition.

The competition is open to students from every school within the University and will continue until April 16.

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