Entrepreneurs sought for Gillespie Business Plan Competition

Executive summaries due Feb. 17

OXFORD, Miss. – On ABC’s reality series “Shark Tank,” competitors pitch their ideas, hoping to become the next big innovator. The University of Mississippi will identify its next heavyweight entrepreneur this spring by having students put their big ideas on paper in the Gillespie Business Plan Competition.

The annual competition, organized by the UM School of Business Administration, is designed to foster entrepreneurship by encouraging students to develop their business ideas. Over the years, many innovative Ole Miss students gained their entrepreneurial start and subsequently launched successful companies from the competition, including Vino del Sol, a wine importing business located in Argentina.

Last year’s winners were Ryan Rigney for Utah Raptor Games; Whitley Miley for Hooves for Hope and Josh Riggs for Mynewcouch.
The competition, which is open to any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at the university, exposes aspiring entrepreneurs to the process of organizing and selling their business idea to a panel of experienced judges. The presentations are similar to what these budding business owners would make to a start-up funding firm or a bank to get their business off the ground. Winners are chosen on April 26 and receive a total of $15,000 in prizes.

The competition kicked off with an Innovation Boot Camp Feb. 1 at Insight Park, providing students with tips on starting a business from industry experts and entrepreneurial faculty.  Some of the panelists included Bill Rayburn, CEO of FNC, Inc., Clint Rosenblatt from Cloud Aptitude, and Elizabeth Randall, President of Randall Commercial Group, LLC.

The Gillespie Business Plan competition is a wonderful way for students to get experiential learning by creating a business plan that will be reviewed by experienced professionals, said Business School Dean Ken Cyree.

“The process of carefully evaluating their ideas and communicating those ideas is an invaluable experience for our students,” Cyree said. “We have had several businesses launch successfully from the competition, and every participant has gained wonderful insight into the business world through the competition. We are hopeful that this year will continue the tradition of successful business formation in addition to the academic rewards the students obtain.”

He also stressed the value of having students working in cross-discipline teams and learning from each other.

“I think the competition is an excellent opportunity for increasing business knowledge, and I encourage all students thinking of becoming and entrepreneur to seriously consider competing,” Cyree said.

Finalists will receive invaluable mentoring from entrepreneurial leaders throughout the competition. Prizes are available for the Best Women’s team, the Best Sustainable or Green idea, the Best Social Entrepreneurship idea and the Best Interdisciplinary team. There is also an incubator prize, for which UM’s Insight Park will provide shared office space to the winner if they meet admission criteria.

Deadlines are as follows:

Feb. 17
Executive summaries (no more than two pages) and contest entrance form due by 12 a.m. CST via this website

March 1
Semi-finalists are announced via email.

March 6
Semi-finalist workshop on-campus, Holman 230, 5-6:15 p.m.

March 22
Semi-final round, 5 minute presentations.

April 21
Full Business Plans due by 12 a.m. CST.

April 26
Final Round and winners announced

The endowment for the competition was provided in honor of Edwin C. Gillespie, a 1943 business administration graduate. His widow, Jean Gillespie, and brother, Joe Gillespie, a 1950 liberal arts graduate, helped establish the endowment to assist students in promoting concepts in entrepreneurship.

For more information visit the School of Business