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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Northwest students pitch their business plan to a panel of business owners and professionals at the 2013 New Venture Pitch Competition. Registration is now open for the third annual competition, which is set for April 18. (Photos by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Northwest students pitch their business plan to a panel of business owners and professionals at the 2013 New Venture Pitch Competition. Registration is now open for the third annual competition, which is set for April 18. (Photos by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Feb. 3, 2014

Students invited to pitch business ideas during annual competition

By Rachel Sielaff, media relations assistant

College students, high school students and members of the community interested in presenting their business ideas in a competitive setting are invited to register for the third annual New Venture Pitch Competition at Northwest Missouri State University.

The deadline to enter is Friday, March 14. The competition will take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 18, in J.W. Jones Student Union at Northwest. There is no entry fee. A meal will be provided during a lunch session that will feature keynote speaker and Northwest alumnus Carl Hughes.

The event provides students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present ideas to professionals, small business owners and potential investors. It also gives students the chance to network with business professionals and gain presentation experience.

“The competition continues to grow and evolve to provide a unique learning experience for participants as well as an opportunity to advance entrepreneurship in the surrounding community,” said Dr. Ben Blackford, assistant professor of management, who is coordinating the competition. “The goal of this competition is to provide an opportunity for students to gain real world experience in an important aspect of entrepreneurship and small business. It also exposes students to the process of building and presenting a business plan as well as encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a potential career.”


How to enter

A team may enter by completing the online registration form. Entries will be accepted until all 50 spaces are filled or March 14, whichever comes first.

The competition will consist of three tracks – students enrolled in an accredited higher education institution, high school students and members of the general public.

The business venture being presented in the pitch must be developed by the team. The venture is eligible to enter the competition only once.


Competition format

The competition format will consist of three rounds for each track. During the first round, teams will give a one-minute elevator pitch about their idea to a panel of judges. In the second round, teams will set up a booth presenting their business idea. The judges will then visit the booths of the teams that impressed them during elevator pitches for more information. Four teams from each track will be selected by the judges to advance to the final round.

The teams selected for the final round will pitch their business idea and judges will select a winner for each track. During the final round, teams have 10 minutes to present their business idea, followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers.

Judges will use a scorecard to evaluate each presentation and rank teams on the effectiveness and persuasiveness of their presentations, the innovativeness and quality of their ideas, the competitive advantage of their proposed businesses, effective discussion of financials and proposed management teams. Ultimately, judges will base their final decisions on how likely they would be to invest their own money in one of the proposals.



The winning team of each track will receive $2,000 toward startup costs for their business and a six-month lease at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship located on Northwest’s campus.

Sponsors for the event are the Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth Endowment Fund and Husch Blackwell.  


About the competition day

The competition starts on April 18 at 8:40 a.m. and concludes about 3:30 p.m. The keynote speaker will begin at 11:10 a.m., followed by a luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

Carl Hughes, co-founder of Inergy, LP, will be the event’s keynote speaker. He is also a Northwest alumnus, having earned his Bachelor of Science degree in finance and insurance in 1976.

In 1996, Hughes, along with John Sherman and a small group of propane industry professionals, co-founded Inergy. Initially, the company’s business strategy was to consolidate the highly fragmented retail propane distribution industry.  The success of this strategy allowed Inergy to gain access to the public equity markets with its first IPO in June 2001. 

As senior vice president for business development, Hughes led Inergy’s growth strategy, successfully acquiring more than 80 retail propane distribution companies. In April 2012, when Inergy announced the sale of its retail propane operations to Suburban Propane, the company had become the fourth largest propane marketer in the country. Soon after, Inergy merged its natural gas business with Crestwood, LP.

Active in the propane industry at a national level, Hughes served as a regular columnist for LP Gas Magazine, the retail propane industry’s top publication. During that time, Carl wrote more than 100 columns designed to address business issues pertinent to the industry. He recently published a book that is a collection of his top columns titled “Delivering Results – Managing a Successful Propane Business.”

Both Hughes and his wife, Cheryl, are graduates of Northwest. They have four grown children and reside in Kansas City. He retired from Inergy at the time of the company’s merger with Crestwood, and remains active in church, philanthropic and investing activities.

For more information about the competition or prize conditions, please contact Blackford at or 660.562.1282.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468