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 UT’s Fourth Annual Undergraduate Business Plan Competition
Launches Two New Businesses

Thirty- four teams competed for $20,000 in prize money and $5,000  in donated services in the fourth annual Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Competition winnersThe two first-place winners already are using their prize money to launch their companies.

“The Business Plan Competition was designed to develop and encourage an entrepreneurial culture on campus and to support aspiring young entrepreneurs in their quest to create value,” said Tom Graves, operations director of the college’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The student-driven contest was open to all UT Knoxville undergraduates.

Graves said that the generosity of UT alumni and friends allowed the college to offer significant cash and services to the winners. 

“All teams competed for the $20,000 in prize money,” said Graves. “The two first-place winners also received complimentary start-up accounting services from Brenda Boyd, CPA, a 1990 college alum.

The 2011 competition continued a two-category approach that allowed students to compete in either a Technology-Enabled or Lifestyle business category. Technology-enabled businesses have the potential for significant national and international expansion; lifestyle businesses typically remain local to a specific regional area. The top three plans in each category won $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000, respectively.

“The judges had their work cut out for them again this year. At one point in the Lifestyle category, the judges simply had to declare a tie for second place. The plans were just that good. We were also pleased to see our first social-cause business in the top three,” said Graves.

Gus Zacharias of Tennessee Marble Company who has judged the last three competitions, said: “The quality of the ideas, the plans, and the presentations in this year’s competition were the best I’ve seen. We’re pleased that the competitors continue to reach greater heights.”
In the Technology-Enabled category, the first-place winners splitting $5,000 were Joey Natour (management ’11) and Seth Elliott (computer science ’11) for Dine Touch, a sophisticated at-the-table restaurant ordering system. The system is currently in beta test in a Knoxville, TN, restaurant.

First place in the Lifestyle category and $5,000 went to Colleen Cruze (agricultural science ’11) for Farm Made Ice Cream, an upscale ice cream made from high-quality milk obtained from a local dairy.

For the first time ever, two teams tied for second place in the Lifestyle category and split $5,000:          

  • Emily Ryan (architecture ’13) for Project Architect, a social-cause foundation to introduce minority women to the world of architecture through one-week summer camps
  • Kristine Palmer (management ’12) for Mane Match, a sophisticated algorithm to match horses with potential buyers

Other winners in the Technology-Enabled category:

  • Second Place ($3,000): Tevin Manuel (’13) for Academic Pathways, software to assist high-school guidance counselors manage students through the college-application process
  • Third Place ($2,000): Nate Buchanan (management ’11), Austin Eldridge (aerospace engineering ’12), and Jordan Peace (management ’11) for Social Legends, a method of connecting fans with sports legends

“Creating an awareness and entrepreneurial culture across campus always has been one of the objectives of the competition,” said Associate Dean Alex Miller. “No discipline has a monopoly on good ideas…and that came through clearly in this year’s competition.”

The competition consisted of three rounds, each requiring more difficult quantitative and qualitative analysis. Judges were local entrepreneurs and business executives.

In the first round of the competition, the entries were evaluated on the ability of the product or service to satisfy an identified need, sustain a competitive advantage, and generate sufficient profit to succeed.

In the second round, each semi-finalist made a 15-minute presentation, with visuals, followed by five minutes for judges’ questions.  Each judge was then given a copy of the participant’s plan for further evaluation. 

The final round consisted of a five-minute “elevator pitch” with no visual aids and 20 minutes for judges to question, in detail, all elements of the plan. 

The judging team consisted of Zacharias; Bill Jenkins, retired corporate executive/ consultant;  Jim Vaviledes, general banking head, Capital Mark Bank and Trust; Jim Brogan, CEO Brogan Financial; Bob Campbell, local entrepreneur; John Morris, local entrepreneur and consultant with Tech 2020’s  Center for Entrepreneurial Growth; and Chris Miller, Meritus Venture Capital.

Graves concluded:  “We are very fortunate to have individuals of this caliber who are willing to give generously of their time and talent to ensure the success of the competition and to mentor our emerging entrepreneurs. The success of the competition owes much to their support.”


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