NAVIGATING THE CRISIS: Adapting Business Plan Competition for Virtual Experience for Students

Even during unprecedented times with education transitioning to remote learning, the Red River Valley Business Plan Competition still proceeded in full force on April 24 – 25, just in a new virtual environment.

“I am remarkably impressed with both the quality of our contestants as well as their flexibility to adjust to the virtual completion.  As they found out, business changes quickly and their ability to change speaks well of their likelihood of success in future ventures,” says Amy Henley, Dean of the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration.

The competition included 9 teams, all from the University of North Dakota, representing a broad scope across campus including students from the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, College of Arts & Sciences, Aerospace, and even the Astrophysics Department. Event organizer and instructor of marketing, Rob Warren indicated the entries declined after the campus went remote with 17 teams previously registered. The reasons for dropping were as varied as the teams and included many students were separated from their teams or found themselves with different obligations with family businesses, farms, and even some called to active duty.

“The entries we had were very committed, they put in the extra work, and the judges were really impressed,” says Warren.

The competition experienced a smooth transition to a virtual environment, utilizing Zoom platforms with multiple rooms for the semifinals and finals. Warren noted that the remote nature may have been a detriment to some teams as their presentations may have flourished more in a live interaction with judges.

The winning teams left with not only an exceptional virtual learning experience but cash prizes and in-kind consulting services to jumpstart their ventures.

Svea Olson, NCoBPA entrepreneurship and marketing student won the Skywalk Challenge for her concept of L.U.C. Studio, which is a gym targeted towards women, taking home a $1,000 cash prize.

Third place winners, Victoria Koudou and Vincent Ledvina, studying business and astrophysics presented AfterNews, which is an app to gamify what you read about in the news. They took home a $5,000 cash prize and $5,000 in consulting time.

2nd place winners, Colby J. Smith and Eamon Christmas studying aviation, presented PreFlight, which is a business targeting customers interested in buying small aircraft and an end of market area that most aircraft vendors ignore. They took home a $10,000 cash prize and $15,000 in consulting time.

The Grand Champion, Pierson Painter, studying business entrepreneurship, presented Liquid De-Icing Branch, which is a liquid salt solution for roads that can work up to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  He took home a $15,000 cash prize, $25,000 in consulting fees, and the right to close the Nasdaq on September 2.

Lead sponsors included the Edson & Margaret Larson Foundation and NoDak Insurance as well as in-kind contributions from the NASDAQ Exchange, S3 Ventures, SCORE, SBDC/SBA, and g51.edu. Special thank you to all of the sponsors and judges that helped make this virtual experience possible!