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Business Plan Competition

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The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Student Business Plan Competition

Student First: East Stroudsburg University continues to strengthen its reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Student Business Plan Competition provides an opportunity for students to develop and launch sustainable businesses in Pennsylvania. Competition is robust as undergraduate and graduate students from the fourteen (14) State System universities are eligible to compete. This year the top prize will be $10,000, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place, with the award ceremony scheduled for April 6, 2016 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Competing students are assisted by a caring and supportive network to refine their business planning activity. Staff members at the East Stroudsburg University’s Innovation Center along with University faculty and experienced business mentors are engaged to assist each student with evaluating the business model, identifying resources requirements and potential resources as well as financial or capitalization strategies.

The competition is structured to assist the student or student team in comprehensive evaluation and structuring of the proposed business or growing an already existent early-stage business. For example, many students are already operating as sole-proprietorships.

Students should not feel intimidated by the competition.  Students from every discipline, from Art & Design to Theatre, Freshman to Graduate are encouraged to participate. Every ESU student has the capacity and competency to effectively compete and be successful. 

Jonathan Weber (ESU ’14) can attest to that-as a junior majoring in computer science and computer security at ESU, he won first place for his business eDentified in the 2012 State System business plan competition. After that, he decided to take part in another business plan competition. With the help of ESU, Weber took first place (again) for his business TickChek. He received $100,000 in cash and professionals’ support services.

“I realized that going to college didn’t mean that I had to graduate and look for a job. I was able to create my own job. I am now my own boss,” Weber said. Weber is now “paying it forward” by becoming a sponsor for the 2015-2016 business plan competition. Mike Gildea, Director of the Business Accelerator program, said, “Jonathan is a great role model for student entrepreneurs striving to launch a profitable business.”

The competition website is Registration of intent to compete is required no later than Nov. 20, 2015; however, students should register as soon as possible so that support can be provided them. Questions about the competition as well as support development should be directed to Jerry Ephault, who is coordinating the competition among the fourteen (14) State System universities. Jerry can be reached at, via telephone (570) 422-7995 or via cell and text at (570) 239-0500.

124 Students within the State System’s universities entered the 2014-2015 competition. Judging was conducted by representatives of each university to select semi-finalists. Semifinalists were then interviewed by a panel of experts from the business community leading to selection of the top three (3) finalists. 

$17,500.00 in cash awards were provided to the top 3 competitors. Sponsors included PSECU, PNC, Hershey Entertainment & Resort, J.P. Morgan, East Stroudsburg University Center for Research & Development, MVM Associates, and StartUp-PA.