Colleges produce business plan competition


The MWest Challenge is produced by a number of colleges in the region for “entrepreneurial students” to compete for startup capital. Photo via

Forty-one college teams representing nine schools will compete next week for roughly $30,000 in startup capital during a regional business plan competition.

About 100 students will compete during the second-annual MWest Challenge, which will take place on April 17 in Grand Rapids at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., at 301 Fulton W. St. The event is free and open to the public.

The event is designed to foster entrepreneurship and cross discipline and cross-school collaboration among students.

The challenge

Hosted by the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the 2015 MWest Challenge features 10 awards and $31,000 in prizes.

Schools across the region will be represented at the event: GVSU, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Kendall College of Art and Design, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, Kuyper College and Hope College.

The final competition will include an initial judging round when the 41 student teams will present an overview of their business plans to a three-member judging panel. The top-five teams will proceed to the final round, while the remaining teams will be entered into the Idea Pitch competition, which is similar to a “Shark Tank” or elevator pitch round.

After this year’s challenge started in November, full-time undergraduate or graduate students participated in a series of workshops and educational opportunities to form teams and business plans for the final competition.


Due to the level of experience a team or business plan may demonstrate, the grand prize was divided into an early stage and a master class track, based on the amount of sales earned since establishment and the level of development in terms of the business idea. Each grand prize-winning team will receive $6,500.

The prize pool includes several other awards: GR Current Technology, $2,500; Social Impact and Sustainability, $2,500; Lifestyle, $2,000; Innovation by Design, $2,000; Spirit of Entrepreneurship, $1,000; Idea Pitch first place, $2,000; and Idea Pitch second place, $1,000. New for this year’s event is the $5,000 Health Care Innovation award sponsored by Spectrum Health Innovations.

School collaboration

Shorouq Almallah, associate director of the GVSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the school is part of a consortium of colleges in the region meeting on a regular basis to help foster entrepreneurship in the community and on campuses.

“We decided to pull all the resources together to do one business plan competition to encourage cross collaboration, not just within disciplines, but also across universities,” Almallah said. “In the past, we used to rotate the hosting of the competition. It just aligned with our mission, goal, and we had the resources and manpower to put on this event. It is truly a community event, a collaborative event. All the other schools are contributing money and time to help put on this event.”

Startup impact

The results of the inaugural MWest Challenge include seven teams incorporating businesses based in Grand Rapids, and three teams have raised additional funds, according to Almallah.

“Aside from the competition being a great learning experience for the students, it is really contributing to the economic development in the area,” Almallah said. “It is fostering entrepreneurship, not just an extracurricular activity. It is really contributing to the economy and creation of small businesses and hopefully bigger business in the future.” 

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