The Thrive Project Team

Student Entrepreneurs Prepare for Regional Business Competitions

Business plan competitions are a great way for students to experience working on their ideas, and connect with the people and resources that can help develop those ideas.

In 2018, several regions across Upstate NY are hosting local student business plan competitions, including the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, Western NY, Capital Region, Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and Central NY.

Undergraduate and graduate students in these regions can apply to pitch ideas in various categories including Service, Product, Social Enterprise/Good, Agriculture/Food and Advanced Technology (Software, Information and Clean Tech). Judges will be looking for market opportunity, competitive advantage, management capacity, financial understanding, venture maturity, presentation and investment potential.

The winners of each regional competition will advance to the statewide New York Business Competition held on April 27 at the SUNY Poly College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, NY.

Members of Upstate Venture Connect’s UNY50 Leadership Network have volunteered to assist the students by helping them refine pitches and prepare contestants weeks before each event.

Brett Orzechowski is an assistant professor of management and media at Utica College. He’s helping to coordinate the Mohawk Valley regional business plan competition in Utica on April 6. He believes one of the main objectives in the Mohawk Valley is to focus on collaborations. “For our students to see and hear about what other startups and businesses are doing is only going to benefit everyone,” said Orzechowski. “There are some really innovative approaches to development, but they’re happening in isolation. Strengthening a regional presence is necessary,” he added.

The Mohawk Valley student business competition and demo day will run in conjunction with an all-day event (#PTF2018) focused on employment opportunities in the Mohawk Valley. Adam Day, creative director for Helios + Matheson, and the driver behind MoviePass, will be the keynote speaker.

Here are details on the Upstate NY regional student business plan competitions:

Mohawk Valley

$10,000 in prizes (cash and in-kind) will be awarded during the Mohawk Valley Business Pitch Competition. This event will be held as part of Utica College Business Program’s event, “Pioneering The Future,” which focuses on the future of work in the region.

Application Deadline: March 28

Event: April 6 @ Utica College

Contact: Brett Orzechowski, Utica College


Finger Lakes

Teams will compete for thousands of dollars in cash prizes and bragging rights in the region. An online application is all that’s required to enter (a full business plan is not necessary).

Application Deadline: March 11

Event: April 11 @ St. John Fisher College

Contact: Matthew Spielmann, University of Rochester


Western New York

The WNY Student 2 Biz Challenge is a collaborative effort between 21 colleges and universities throughout the Buffalo area, and championed by the WNY Consortium of High Education.

Application Deadline: April 6

Event: April 20 @ Hilbert College

Contact: Steve Harvey, Bryant & Stratton

In the summer of 2018, a number of WNY winners will be offered an opportunity to incubate their businesses for up to a year on their home campuses. Each incubated team will be connected with college faculty, institutional resources, and a team of five external mentors to support the development of their business.


Capital Region

The Capital Region Collegiate Business Plan Competition is supported by Innovate 518 and UAlbany’s Innovation Center.

Application Deadline: March 30

Event: April 5 @ University at Albany

Contact: Bob Manasier, University at Albany


Hudson Valley

The Mid-Hudson Regional Business Plan Competition has evolved each year with more representation from schools across the seven counties.

Application Deadline: March 23

Event: April 13 @ Marist College

Contact: Susan Scanlon, Marist College


Southern Tier

Mentors for the Southern Tier Regional Business Competition include Tony Frontera and Ken McLeod of Binghamton University.

Application Deadline: April 11

Event: April 21 @ Binghamton University

Contact: Emma Baudendistel, Binghamton University


Central New York

Ready to claim your piece of startup funding? In 2017, Syracuse University student venture SparkCharge took home the grand prize in the statewide business plan competition.

Application Deadline: March 9

Event: April 23 @ Syracuse Blackstone LaunchPad

Contact: Braden Croy, Syracuse University


* Each of these regional competitions have unique rules and application criteria. Please see their websites for more details.

If your region is hosting a student business plan competition this year, please reach out to Upstate Venture Connect to be included in this article.

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