By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Oklahoman
Spring is an inspiring time of year around i2E as we enter the final phase of the 2019 Love’s Cup statewide collegiate business plan competition.
Oklahoma owes a huge thank you to Love’s Travel Stops for sponsoring the competition, formerly known as the Governor’s Cup and now in its 15th year. This competition is a remarkable opportunity for hundreds of college and university students from throughout Oklahoma to synthesize what they have learned in college and become part of Oklahoma’s spirit of innovation, but it is not Love’s only tangible contribution.
As a business, Love’s represents the very best in entrepreneurship. In Love’s, students see proof first-hand of the power of a uniquely Oklahoma entrepreneurial vision, grit and determination. Love’s began as an Oklahoma startup with $5,000 and a lease on an abandoned gas station in 1964 and has grown from those humble beginnings into a top 20 Forbes ranking of America’s largest private companies. Love’s is not only taking a leadership role in helping grow new talent in this state, the Love’s Family of Companies is helping Oklahoma retain that talent by encouraging our young entrepreneurs to use their expertise to elevate Oklahoma’s business industry.
“Love’s Cup showcases the incredible business minds of college students across the state, and we’re proud to be involved,” said Jenny Love Meyer, vice president of communications for Love’s. “Love’s was built on the same entrepreneurial spirit these young competitors exude, and we’re excited to be part of this first step as they create business plans and persuade others to get involved.”
The Love’s Cup gives teams experience with four separate judging panels of professionals from diverse industries and professions, including entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists, and professional service providers.
Every team that enters a business plan has a sit-down interview with experts from the industry represented by their business plan. These discussions — which have no handouts, no presentation materials, and no guests — call on students to demonstrate their understanding of their business and competitive advantages and are an ideal opportunity for the teams to ask for advice. This is a level-setting experience for the teams to learn and demonstrate one of the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs — coachability.
The second round of judging is the written business plans, which feed into the two-day round of business plan presentations. This year’s semi-finalists made their investor presentations last Thursday. Six finalists from each of the three divisions — high growth graduate, high growth undergraduate and small business — then presented on Friday to determine the first-, second- and third-place winners in each division.
Division winners, scholarship awards, and pitch and plan awards will be announced at the Love’s Cup Awards Dinner on April 18. This is an event packed with excitement and celebration. Winners earn more than $150,000 in cash awards.
In my view, every student who participates in the Love’s Cup is a winner. They are complementing what they are learning in their college education with real world experience. No matter where they go after graduation — into a startup or a corporate environment — they will be better hires because of this experience.
Here’s my suggestion to every Oklahoma business. Recruit graduates who are Love’s Cup alumni. These are some of the brightest young people I’ve ever met. They are the best of the best and, you never know, they may just launch Oklahoma’s next Love’s.
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 appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.