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JCEL Launches Business Plan Competition

By JOSH FUNK Daily News Staff Writer September 23, 2011

Some lucky Juniata College students could wind up winning some greenbacks in a campus competition to find the best business plan. The Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (JCEL) has launched a student business plan competition, with a grand prize of $2,500 given to the winner which is underwritten by The Daily News.

Nick Felice, JCEL executive director, told The Daily News a total of 28 students are working on a total of 23 business ideas –two teams of three, one team of two and 20 individuals- which are a part of the competition. Students participating in the contest were allowed to work in teams of no more than three members or pursue their own plan individually.

Felice said he was very interested with the number of students who are participating in the contest. "We had done a lot of marketing for this event and it's a great amount of students for the first time of offering something like this," Felice said. "I believe as the students move further into this process they will learn more than they ever thought possible."

The completion began with a workshop session Sept. 13, where Felice, John Hille, executive vice president of Juniata College and Richard Snyder, a co-owner of Z-Band, Carlisle, were present.

"Richard was there to give the students a motivational pep talk," Felice said. "His message was that it's never too late to be an entrepreneur. He is part of a three-person ownership team and got into the business realm as an entrepreneur in his 50s." Over the course of the next several weeks, students participating in the competition will be hard at work drafting their plans and meeting with a mentor set up by the college, Felice said.

"The student will be required to maintain contact with their mentor for an hour per week through the process of drafting their business plan," Felice said. "The mentor allows for students to have a more personalized resource. The mentors helping with this project are generally alumni from Juniata College who want to give back and help the students."

While writing their business plans, students have the opportunity to partake of the college's Next Step Fellowship program, which will pay the student or students to research their plan and be able to utilize the resources available at JCEL. "It's like a work-study program," Felice said. "The students will be able to be paid $7.25 per hour for between five to eight hours per week to come to JCEL and have assistance available to them in writing up their business plans."

The business plans are due Oct. 20, Felice said, and between that day and Nov. 1, the plans will be evaluated and the top five submissions will be selected to continue on the competition. Then, those five individuals will have two weeks to prepare a presentation and prototype of the business. At 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Brumbaugh Academic Center, the top five selections will each have 15 minutes to present their business idea, Felice said. A panel of judges will deliberate and then select a winner that evening.

For the top five individuals/teams whose business plan makes the cut, each is guaranteed at least $625 cash. But one of the five will be selected as the overall winner of the competition and will receive a grand prize of $2,500. The grand prize winner will not receive one of the four $625 cuts.

But it doesn't stop there for the grand prize winner. "If the grand prize winner so desires to pull the trigger and act on his or her business plan and begin operations, JCEL will add another $2,500 of its own money to the prize winnings," Felice said. "That helps to sweeten the deal. And we are also hopeful that even students who don't win the grand prize or come in the top five will work toward making their business ideas become reality."

Felice said he is very excited about the project. "I'm probably the most excited as I've been about JCEL since I arrived here," Felice said. "This project aims to plant the seed that the students have done this and gone through the business planning process will hopefully go through the process in real life, too. A project like this is designed to spark interest and desire."