As the Arkansas Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition gears up for its 2018 edition, it does so with a new title sponsor.
Delta Plastics, a manufacturer of irrigation pipe and longtime supporter of the competition, committed $154,000 for the title spot. The money goes directly into a cash prize pool for winners in various categories of both the graduate and undergraduate divisions.
“[Delta Plastics is] a great Arkansas company, one that’s been a longtime supporter of the Governor’s Cup,” said Sam Walls, president and COO of Arkansas Capital, which sponsors the event. “I think it speaks to the value of the Governor’s Cup when you have people who have participated in it step up and say, ‘We need this in Arkansas, there’s still a place for it and were going to make sure that it still can be here for the state.'”
Delta Plastics’ sponsorship replaces that of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which had supported the venture via a grant since 2004. Previously, Delta Plastics had contributed $10,000 as sponsor of the innovation division of the business plan competition.
Other entities contributing sponsorship dollars to the event include the Arkansas Farm Bureau, which contributes $10,000 as the returning sponsor of the agricultural division. Innovate Arkansas has stepped up to be the new sponsor for the innovation division, previously held by Delta Plastics, contributing $10,000 to that effort.
The Arkansas Governor’s Cup was established to help educate college students to the role and process of entrepreneurship in the state’s economy. Over the years, it has developed into a key element of business education for its participants. It has also done much to raise the profile of entrepreneurial pursuits in Arkansas, Walls said.
“Before we started this thing, there was not one college in the state of Arkansas that had an entrepreneurial program,” he said. “You go look now and multiple universities have those types of programs, either as a formal degree or as a program.”
Since the first event in 2001, more than 2,500 students from 20 of the state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities have taken part in the competition, submitting a total of 839 business plans. Winning competitors have been awarded more than $2 million in cash prizes, which winners can spend at their own discretion.
Additionally, about 900 Arkansans from the business, education, civic and nonprofit sectors have volunteered as judges in the preliminary written and semi-finalist/finalist-oral presentation rounds of the competition.
A sample of companies that had their roots in the business plan contest include Ascendant Dx, Boston Mountain Biotech, iProv, Movista, Orlumet, Picasolar (now Silicon Solar Solutions) and Sharp Hue. Two additional businesses, Leverage Bids and ArkUAV from last year’s event, have also been launched.
“The students who go through [the competition] come out the other end almost in the same voice saying, ‘Hey I learned so much from this thing. We get so much value from it,'” Walls said. “Whether they start their own business or they go work for someone else, the appreciation for that thought process makes them a better employee or employer.”
Cash awards are presented to the top three place winners in the graduate and undergraduate divisions ($25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, at each level). The top elevator pitch at the undergraduate and graduate level receive $2,000 each. Top business plans in the agricultural and innovation categories at the graduate and undergraduate level, receive $5,000 each. In addition, 12 undergraduate semifinalists and six graduate semifinalists receive $1,000 for advancing to the oral presentation round.
The Intent to compete deadline is Feb. 16, with business plans due Feb 25. Awards are held at a luncheon April 18. For full details and contest rules, please visit argovernorscup.org.