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State System Business Plan Competition 2015-2016

Welcome to Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Business Plan Competition 2015-2016.

1.  You first register and complete the Intent to Compete section questions; you may also add your Venture Profile information if available; otherwise, you can re-enter  the Competition Website as often as required to add or edit the Venture Profile content.

Your Business Plan, if developed, can be added as an attachment within the Venture Profile's question section.  Note:  A Venture Profile is an abbreviated description of the Company's business model; whereas, the Business Plan is a comprehensive description of all elements of the Company's business model.

Intent to Compete: Registration must be submitted by Nov. 20, 2015.

Venture Profile:  Content must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2016.

Intent to Compete Registration steps:

2.  Go to the top left orange box where it says Login/Register, and click on that. You will be asked to create an account to participate in the competition - Click on Create User Account.   Only one “Intent to Compete” form may be submitted per individual or team.  If you are a member of a team, you can submit your own Venture Profile, if the business is different than the team's business model.

  • When registering your or your team's profile and filling out the "Intent to Compete," please sure enter your University's Banner ID. Also make sure to select your university for your "track" when completing your profile.
  • If you want to keep your business idea private (viewed only by committee members and judges), do not check the box “Display your Business on the iStart Public Directory.” If you check the display box, anyone may do a search and find your information.

3.  Enter information in the next several sections as instructed, when you have entered as much information as you have available about your business concept, then click Save at the bottom of the form. You are then registered but remember you need to re-enter the website and type in your additional business plan information according to the template provided prior to Feb. 1, 2016 11:59 PM. If you do not complete each section, then your application will be deemed "incomplete".  Be sure to complete each section's questions in the section area, do not refer to an Attachment, such as a business plan, as the section answer.  Only in the Additional Documentation section would you place and refer to attachments.

Students may submit and rework their  Venture Profiles between May, 2015 and February 1, 2016.  However, all questions within the Venture Profile section must be completed no later then February 1, 2016 to continue in the competition process.  Incomplete Venture Profiles will not be continued in the competition process.


Competition Information:
The State System Business Plan Competition Committee is seeking State System students who are interested in starting or growing their own business in Pennsylvania. Funding is available to support students in their business development efforts. Start-up/seed capital and in-kind prizes will be awarded to assist with the creation of your new business or the development of your growing business.

Prizes include:

  • $10,000 for 1st place
  • $5,000 for 2nd place
  • $2,500 for 3rd place
  • Trophy for best Video (Student Choice Award)
  • Trophy for best Poster displayed at Awards Ceremony
    All active competitors as of Feb. 2, 2016 will receive a Certificate indicating their participation.

Student Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants must be matriculated undergraduate or graduate students, enrolled full-time or part-time during the Fall 2015 semester, at any of the 14 PA State System of Higher Education universities: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, West Chester.

Additional Eligibility Requirements

  • The proposed venture may be either a for-profit or non-profit enterprise.

For Profit Business: A team of contestants must be comprised of active State System students having no less than 51% equity ownership in a for-profit company.

Non Profit Business:  If the business is a non-profit, then, no less than 2 State Systems students who are founders of the business and with voting rights shall be members of the Board when the business is launched. A copy of the organization's By-Laws can be added to the Venture Profile, which will evidence the inclusion of student membership within the Board.

 Note: 1:  Students need not come from the same State System university; teams could be formed from one or more State System universities.  Note 2: Only  students in a degree program, who are currently enrolled in the Fall Semester, as described above should be listed as the Team Leader and additional applicants; you will identify other equity ownership members and percent of equity owned by each individual, who are not active State System students, in the management section question in the venture profile.

  • An eligible pre-venture or early stage business is one that: has been operating for three years or less to include a business operating as a sole-partnership, and has cumulative sales over the last three years (2012-2015) of $75,000 or less.
  • To qualify for the funding awards the businesses must be located in Pennsylvania. The business' headquarters operations and a majority of key management personnel must be located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Business incorporation may be made in States other than Pennsylvania, likewise, sales, operations and business related activities can be conducted nationally and internationally.  Headquarters and majority of key management personnel must operate from the Pennsylvania location while funds are being expended from the cash award.
  • An individual or team who had previously received third-party funding must disclose the amount and the percentage of equity owned by non-student equity owners, when completing the financial section of the venture profile.
  • The contestants are encouraged to protect the intellectual property they propose to make, distribute or sell in the venture profile. If you are unsure of intellectual property issues, then speak with your university's contact. At the same time, contestants must ensure that their proposed development does not infringe on intellectual property of others.  Intellectual property includes copyrights, trademarks/service marks, provisional patents and patents.

If you have a question regarding Intellectual Property ownership, please link to: Student Intellectual Property Agreements.  www.passhe.edu/.../Pages/IntellectualPropertyPolicyStatement.aspx

  • Note: Intent to license another's intellectual property as a component of your product or service is allowed in the business plan competition.

Terms and Conditions

Students who are undergraduates or in graduate school, at the date of the award, have up to three (3) years from the date of the award to expend all awarded funds.  An extension may be allowed based on justification satisfactory to and with approval by the university and Competition Coordinator.

If a team wins the competition and only one, or several, of the team members proceed with the business development, those who proceed with the development will receive the award benefit. Teams are encouraged to enter into an Operating Agreement, prior to or upon entry into the competition.  If not a sole proprietorship, then companies should provide evidence that a legal entity was actually formed, for example, a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Funds in escrow will be deposited in a secure interest bearing account, with interest to accrue to the awardee.


Cash and In-kind Services

Start-up capital may be used for business plan development, product prototype, legal expenses, accounting, marketing, and commercialization support. Funds may also be used to purchase specialized equipment if the student can demonstrate that the equipment is essential for their business development. Payroll (except for 10% of the award), travel and entertainment expenses are ineligible uses of the award funds.

Award Distribution

The awards for the first, second, and third place winners are intended to assist the winners in capitalizing and developing or growing their business model.

Prize money is available to currently enrolled students in good standing as of the fall 2015 semester only.

  • A portion, 10%, of the award will be available as cash. The balance of the award is to be held in escrow by the University. Awards will be transferred to the university from the PA Foundation and will be released to the winner for business related costs with proof of payment.
  • No more than 10% of the award can be used for salaries or wages.
  • Business related costs may include, but are not limited to professional services, such as accounting, legal, or consulting, that are needed to complete the business plan, establish a legal structure, secure financing, and complete related pre-start up tasks.
  • The use of free resources, such as the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC), on-line training, are recommended and preferred. However, awardees are permitted to use up to 30% of their award for professional development/training that meets the following standards:
    • The development or training must be necessary to obtain a certification or license that is required by the state to operate the winning business.
    • They must be short-term (one to two weeks) intensive training, including continuing education units (CEU) programs, which provide the skills needed to operate their business.
    • Conferences must be less than one week and offer professional development sessions that provide the skills needed to operate their business..
  • Rent and utilities for space to conduct the business.
  • Working capital for business costs, which include advertising, supplies, materials, inventory, web site development, etc.
  • Necessary equipment.
  • No more than 10% of the award can be used for salaries and wages.
  • No funds may be used to complete degree requirements at any level.

Business Plan Competition Timeframe

  • Registration, “Intent to Compete”, form must be submitted by November 20. 2015
  • Venture Profile submission due by February 1, 2016
  • Judging – Semi-Finalists Selected: March 4, 2016
  • Judging – Finalist Interviews:  March 13-20, 2016
  • State System Business Plan Awards Ceremony: April 6, 2016

            * Please note that all dates are subject to change.

Venture Profiles - Due February 1, 2016

Following submission of completed Venture Profiles, semi-finalists will be selected in March.

Finalists and Winning Business Plan - April 6, 2016

Finalists will be announced by the end of March, and the top three award winning business plans will be announced at the State System Business Plan Awards Ceremony, which is scheduled for April 6, 2016.

University Contacts and Student Competitor Resources

Students are encouraged to contact their campus representative for a list of business development resources, such as Small Business Development Centers, and Mentors which may be available to them, as well as any additional information about the StateSystem Business Plan Competition.

Selection of Semi-finalists and Finalists

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Centers (ELC) or their designee at each State System university will be responsible for assisting students in completing their venture profiles. A team of independent judges will review the semi-finalists and select the finalists. Finalists will be required to participate in a phone interview with the external judges.

Poster Display at Awards Ceremony

The semi-finalists and finalists of the State System Business Plan Competition are encouraged to represent their plan ideas during a reception immediately preceding the awards presentation. This is an opportunity for each participant, judge, faculty, ELC Director, and the guests to become familiar with the scope of the work and the ideas of each contestant. Your local ELC or university designee can provide assistance.

We encourage creativity and professionalism in creating the posters within the following basic guidelines:

  • The poster is to be no larger than 22” wide by 28” tall, which is the size of a standard poster board.
  • The poster can weigh no more than ¾ pound and be no more than ½” thick.
  • The poster must be able to be supported by a display easel and have a straight bottom edge.
  • It is recommended that the poster be mounted to foam board or foam core.
  • It is recommended that the surface be matte as opposed to glossy.
  • The text and graphic content must be suitable for all ages.
  • Balloons, ribbons, drapery, flowers and foliage are not permitted.
  • No tables or table space will be provided or permitted.

Within the above criteria, design your Venture Profile poster to represent your idea, attract attention, and inspire conversation about your idea. The posters are similar to what one might expect to see at a trade show. We encourage you to bring business cards to distribute to those attending.





For technical issues with the iStart platform, contact:

Gerald Ephault

Pennsylvania's State System Student Business Plan Coordinator


570-422-7995, (C) 570-239-0500