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Business and Industry | Community | FeaturedNovember 30, 2023

Lion's Lair Business Plan Contest Awards Nearly $2,000

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith concluded its anticipated Lion's Lair Business Plan Contest on November 30, with an array of innovative student projects. The contest, hosted by the Ƶ Center for Economic Development, aimed to foster entrepreneurial skills among undergraduate students.

During Thursday’s live pitch competition, teams presented their business ideas in a one-minute pitch format, hoping to transform their visions into viable small businesses. A panel of regional business leaders including Abe Elsayed, Tom Hanna, and Phil White served as judges. In addition, Provost & Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Dr. Shadow Robinson judged alongside Dean of the College of Business and Industry, Dr. Latisha Settlage.

"Every student possesses unique ideas that can change the marketplace. This contest is an opportunity to refine those ideas and bring them to life. So many students today have side hustles that they can turn into profitable businesses," said Bill Sabo, Regional Director of the CED’s Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Ƶ.

While scores were being tallied, Tiffany Henry, Vice President at Arkansas Capital, a stand-out non-profit lending corporation, emphasized the importance of young entrepreneurs in Arkansas and discussed the Governor's Cup competition.

Arkansas Capital, which initiated the Governor’s Cup over two decades ago, announced this year significant updates for competition. A new Small Business track for two-year and trade institutions in Arkansas and an expanded Graduate track for students from several neighboring states were highlighted. The 2024 competition boasts a cash prize pool exceeding $124,000.

Sabo encouraged students to participate, highlighting the contest as a platform to transform side hustles into profitable ventures.

The Lion's Lair contest required participants to submit concise 10-page business plans and deliver one-minute live pitches. Entries were judged on innovation, feasibility, and presentation clarity.

The winners were:

  • Pitch Competition ($200 Prize): TokenWiz by Joe Koller, Eric Johnson, Brice Maguire, a tokenization software solution for investment banks and businesses.
  • 1st Place Business Plan ($1,000 Prize): Natural State Kombucha by Mallory Howerton & Travis Johns, offering unique, Arkansas-inspired kombucha flavors.
  • 2nd Place Business Plan ($500 Prize): Transit Optimizer by Troy Rodriquez & Reyna Lamb, focusing on enhancing public transportation in small-to-medium-sized cities.
  • 3rd Place Business Plan ($250 Prize): TokenWiz, securing another win for its innovative approach.

This contest, apart from providing cash prizes, offers a valuable stepping stone for students to enter the entrepreneurial world, underscoring Ƶ's commitment to fostering innovation and business acumen among its students.

  • Tags:
  • Center for Business and Professional Development
  • CED
  • Center for Economic Development