By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
We’ve just completed Oklahoma’s 14th annual statewide collegiate business plan competition. Last Thursday evening, as we honored the 2018 Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup winners at the traditional celebratory gala, I was struck — as I am every year — with just how impactful this business plan competition is.
More than 2,150 students have written business plans for 600 innovative ideas. They’ve earned $1.8 million in cash awards, $125,000 in scholarships, and $231,000 in fellowships.
There are many individuals and organizations across Oklahoma who contribute to making the Love’s Cup such a resounding success, but perhaps there is no group, except the students themselves, who put more heart and commitment into this program that the advisers of the student teams.
Lowell Busenitz, professor and Michael F. Price Chair in Entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma, has been an adviser since the early years of the competition.
“When they first started the Governor’s Cup, as the Love’s Cup was called previously, we had to scramble to get a few students ready,” Lowell said. “We soon made some adjustments to our program to better accommodate the Cup because we noticed the impact that participation was having on our student learners.”
With the opportunity to submit business plans to a statewide competition, the challenge of presenting that plan to prospective investors, and the motivation of more than $150,000 in financial incentives, the students kicked up their energy.
“The bar I set for the business plan class is based on what prospective investors say that the bar is, not what this professor says the bar is,” Lowell said. “The students get feedback on their written plans and presentations — real world red ink. With legitimate feedback and doses of reality, students soon learn how to pivot and make adjustments as they seek to craft their projects into valid startup concepts. Their work is anchored by what prospective investors are looking for. That’s what makes the Love Cup such a powerful tool.”
Professor Busenitz has coached his last Love’s Cup team; he’s retiring from OU this year after advising more than 200 total and 25 winning teams
“As I reflect on my career,” Lowell recounted, “it was through this business plan process that I discovered the power of experiential learning — in this case, the process of crafting a venture that has real potential.”
The experiential learning process has become foundational to the program at the University of Oklahoma, and it has become a cutting-edge model of entrepreneurial education.
“What a privilege it has been to spend these years helping to design an entrepreneurial program anchored in what prospective investors are looking for while also gaining insights into how students’ best learn about entrepreneurship,” he said. “Students gain so much more through the experiential learning process, of which the business plan preparation and the presentation to prospective investors plays an important part.”
Like Lowell Busenitz, Love’s Travel Stops believes in experiential learning and being hands on. That’s one of the reasons why Love’s has been so successful in the marketplace and ultimately became the signature sponsor of the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup.
Thanks to Love’s, dedicated advisers like Lowell Busenitz and numerous other sponsors, college students across Oklahoma have the opportunity to participate in the tremendous learning experience that the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup offers. And there’s plenty of room for other Oklahoma businesses to become engaged.
The rising tide of entrepreneurship lifts all boats. The students that experience the Love’s Cup are ready to hit the ground running no matter what future career path they choose to pursue.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.