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Win Up to $15,000 in Scholarships

Focused on energizing the entrepreneurial spirit of St. Thomas students from across campus, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge encourages students to explore their potential, search out new opportunities and use the skills and knowledge they have acquired to make a difference in the world. And participants have the chance to win up to $15,000 in scholarships. 

This annual event is organized by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and focuses on energizing the entrepreneurial spirit of St. Thomas students. The contest is open to all current University of St. Thomas undergraduate and graduate students. Students must be registered in the semester of competition with a valid St. Thomas student ID.

Two Tracks for Competition

Students can compete in two different tracks:
  • Business Concept Track for students focused on more traditional commercial ventures. These can be business-to-consumer, business-to-business, technology-based ventures, and are typically for-profit models.
  • Social Venture Track for students whose ventures are primarily focused on solving significant social problems – such as, poverty alleviation, social injustice, environmental sustainability – using entrepreneurial methods in order to craft innovation solutions that are effective and scalable. These can be non-profit, for-profit or a mixture of both (hybrid models).

Scholarships are awarded to the top four finishers and best presenter in each track.

Submission Deadline
October 28, 2019, 11:59 p.m.
Submit initial business concepts here.

Semifinalists announced
November 6, 2019

Final judging and announcement of winners
November 22, 2019, 1-5 p.m.

The competition is open exclusively to all University of St. Thomas undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows registered in the semester of the competition. All members of a team must be current students with a valid St. Thomas student ID. Teams typically consist of one to three members.

Submissions should be new business concepts. No business concepts that have won or placed in a previous Fowler competition may be submitted again. Students may submit as many business concepts as they like, but students are limited to one concept eligible to compete in the semifinal and final competition.

Submission Requirements

Provide a brief description of your business concept following the prompts outlined below. Your submission can be a maximum of five pages, double-spaced, 11-point type.

Business Concept Track:

  1. A concise description of the proposed business and why it is unique/compelling.
  2. Target Market – Who is your customer? What customer problem will you solve? How does your customer solve that problem today? What other solutions will compete for that customer?
  3. Proposed Solution – What is your product or service? How will it solve the problem? How will your solution create exceptional value for the customer? How is it different from and superior to other solutions in the market? 
  4. Market Opportunity – Provide a preliminary estimate of the size of the potential market (number of customers that can be reasonably addressed).
  5. Business model – How will you deliver this solution to your customer affordably and effectively, and how will the venture make money (revenue model)?
  6. Why Should Someone Invest in Your Venture? Explain why you will be successful.

Social Venture Track:

  1. Social impact focus area – What is the social problem you want to help solve (e.g. reduce food insecurity in the Twin Cities; reduce chemical run-off into the Mississippi; reduce the opportunity gap in low-income schools, etc.)?
  2. Proposed solution – What product or service will you offer to address the problem? How will your solution help alleviate the problem?
  3. Population served
    • Who is impacted by the problem? How do they experience the problem today? How do they try to solve it today? How will they be impacted by your solution?
    • Are there other “customers” or stakeholders you must serve in order to deliver or fund your solution or impact? (For instance, Love Your Melon sells hats to consumers in order to raise money to donate hats and funds for children experiencing cancer and to the nonprofits that serve them). Who are these customers? Why will they want your offering?
  4. Compelling advantage – How is your solution different from and superior to other solutions in the market? How does your solution create exceptional value for all it serves?
  5. Business model – How will you deliver this solution to your customer affordably and effectively, and how will the venture make money (revenue model)? How is your revenue model connected to your goal to deliver social impact? 
  6. Potential social impact – How many people can you impact, or how many customers can you reasonably address? How will you measure the success of your venture? What measures or metrics will you use (e.g. number of clients fed; decrease in chemical run-off, etc.)?

To submit your concept, create a free account with Reviewr. You will need your concept name, your chosen competition track, the student ID numbers for each person on the team and your business concept document.

Judges will select up to 16 teams as semifinalists in each track. These teams will be given additional instructions to prepare their presentations for the judges.

The judges will select the top four semifinalists from each track to move on to the final round in the afternoon. A new panel of judges will select the winners in each track.

Preliminary submissions will be judged by a reviewer panel using the following criteria (equally weighted):

Business Concept Track Judging Criteria

  • Originality - business idea is new, novel and unique
  • Clear and compelling value proposition - legitimate, recognized need; appropriate solution
  • Competitive advantage - creates more value for customer than alternative solutions
  • Market opportunity - adequate market size; viable revenue model
  • Feasibility - reasonable prospect of funding and successful implementation
  • Well-researched - demonstrates clear understanding of customer/customer need, market, competitive set, solution requirements

Social Venture Track Judging Criteria

  • Originality - social venture concept is new, novel and unique
  • Clear articulation of specific social/environmental impactand revenue model
  • Compelling advantage - solution is superior to current offerings
  • Social impact - size of environmental impact, size of population served; potential to impact significant number of people, size of reduction of risk/loss
  • Feasibility/Sustainability - viable business/revenue model that does not continue to depend on donations
  • Well-researched - demonstrates clear understanding of the social/environmental problem, customer/environmental need, market, competitive offerings, solution requirements

Upcoming Events

S’Mores & Information

Fowler Business Concept Challenge Information Session 

September 17, 2019, 4 – 6:30 p.m. 
John P. Monahan Plaza outside of the Anderson Student Center

Submission Workshops

Drop-in working sessions with guidance provided by entrepreneurship faculty.

2019 workshop dates TBA.

Fowler Frenzie

During the Frenzie, entrepreneurship faculty and mentors will be on hand to provide help for students looking to improve their concepts before the submission deadline of October 28.     

2019 Fowler Frenzie date TBA.

1:1 Help Sessions

1:1 Help Sessions are twenty-minute meetings per individual or team with entrepreneurship faculty.

2019 1:1 Help Session dates TBA.

Scholarship Awards

All participants and judges are invited to a ceremony immediately following the finals where the following awards will be presented.

Awards in each division:

Winner: $15,000 per team
Runner-up: $7,500 per team
Second Runner-up: $5,000 per team
Third Runner-up: $2,500 per team
Most Effective Presenter: $1,000