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Entrepreneurship at New Highs Say Judges for UAA Business Plan Competition

Business plan competition 2021 Learn more about the Business Plan Competition.

UAA’s Business Plan Competition is designed to inspire and encourage economic development and entrepreneurship. The number of people coming forward with new and innovative business ideas is way up during the pandemic, said several speakers during the competition’s kick-off event last month.

“This is a great time to be an entrepreneur,” said Dr. Helena S. Wisniewski, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Chair of the Management, Marketing, Logistics and Business Analytics Department in the College of Business and Public Policy.

Wisniewski is the designer of the Business Plan Competition and a veteran of multiple start-ups. “The number of IPOs is way up, surpassing the ‘Dot - Com’ era. You wouldn’t think of that during a pandemic, but opportunities are everywhere. You’ve got to look at the challenges we are facing and turn them into opportunities.”

Venture capitalist and Business Plan Competition judge Steve Socolof agreed. “There’s been so much change this year in the way we work, live at home, the way we travel, the way we educate. I’ve never seen so many startups. With the help of Zoom and so many platforms, I’ve seen so many pitches all over the country, not just in my region.”

Jon Bittner, State Director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center, is seeing an exceptional number of people starting businesses right now. There are so many that he thought the numbers were wrong. “Showing people that there are things that can come out of this pandemic has never been more important,” he said. “We need hope. It’s not all gloom and doom and the end of the world. There’s a reason to be optimistic.”

Wisniewski and Socolof are among several judges returning to this year’s Business Plan Competition. Last March the competition had to pivot to a virtual format for its final competition event. That didn’t affect the enthusiasm judges have for the competition, which they said was inspiring and exciting with the amount of passion and creative ideas that were brought forward.

“I want to give a special welcome to all the entrepreneurs who showed up tonight,” said John Nosfinger, Interim Dean of the College of Business and Public Policy. “Your creativity and competency made it really fun last year, and I’m excited about what we’re going to see this year.”

The 2021 Business Plan Competition features cash prizes of more than $10,500 in three categories, and eligibility has expanded to include UAA students and aspiring entrepreneurs in the community.

The final deadline for submitting a business plan is February 8, 2021, although competition administrators encourage entrants to sign an “Intent to Compete” form by December 4, 2020. Anyone who completes the form will be invited to a special mentoring session in January to provide extra guidance as they finalize submissions.

Four finalists will be invited to pitch their start-up ideas live during a “Perfect Pitch” competition on March 26, 2021. The event will be live and open to the public. Depending on conditions, it will be either in-person or over Zoom.

Learn more about the College of Business and Public Policy’s Business Plan Competition
Business Plan Competition web page
Business Plan Competition Rulebook
Full list of 2021 Judges
Press release from 2020 competition