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Student Reuben Thompson-Amarteifio makes his presentation during the Fowler Business Concept Challenge

Test Your Entrepreneurial Skills

The Fowler Business Concept Challenge

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. Students who compete in the semifinals, but do not advance to the finals win a $1,000 scholarship per team. Finalists in each track compete for up to $15,000 in scholarships.

This annual event is organized by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and 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. Participants who compete in the semifinals, but do not move on to one of the top four spots receive scholarships of $1,000 per team.

Submission Deadline
October 26, 2020, 11:59 p.m.
Submit your Concept Here

Semifinalists announced
November 4, 2020

Semifinal judging - Semifinalists will pitch at one of two blocks
Pitch block one: November 17, 2020, 1-3:30 p.m.
Pitch block two: November 18, 2020, 9-11:30 a.m.

Final judging and announcement of winners
November 20, 2020, 1-5 p.m.

Round One: Online submissions due by October 26
Each individual or student team will create a concept for a new business or social venture and submit a five-page explanation of the product or service by October 26. Submission requirements differ by track (see detail in Requirements tab below). Sixteen semifinalists in each track will be chosen from these submissions to advance to the semifinals on November 17 & 18.


Round Two: Semifinalists pitch virtually during one of two pitch blocks (November 17, 1-3:30 p.m. or November 18, 9-11:30 a.m.)
Semifinalists will prepare a 10-minute presentation of their concept and present it either on November 17 or November 18 to a to a distinguished panel of judges drawn from the entrepreneurial, business and investment communities.


Round Three: Finalists pitch virtually on the afternoon of November 20
The top four teams in each division will advance to the finals. Finalist teams will present their 10-minute presentations on the afternoon of November 20 to a new panel of judges drawn from the entrepreneurial, business and investment communities.

Teams advancing to the finals receive scholarships in each track:
  • 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 per team
  • Audience Choice Award: $500 per team

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. Students can participate as individuals or as part of a team. Teams typically consist of two to three members. All members of a team must be current students with a valid St. Thomas student ID. 


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. How does your concept contribute to the common good? — how does it support human flourishing among its key stakeholders? Are there potential harms to stakeholders or society, and how will you mitigate those?
  7. 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. Ready to submit your concept? Click here to access Reviewr.


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
  • Clear understanding and articulation of impact on stakeholders and society

Social Venture Track Judging Criteria

  • Originality - social venture concept is new, novel and unique
  • Clear articulation of specific social/environmental impact and 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

2020 Workshops & Help

Coffee & Convos

The annual kickoff to the Fowler Business Concept Challenge will take place virtually this year. Join our Zoom information session, learn about the competition and receive a gift card for your choice of beverage at The Loft coffee shop in ASC.

This virtual event was held on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 from 5:30-6:00 p.m.

Watch the recording for Coffee & Convos.

Let's Get Started

All you need to know about the Fowler Business Concept Challenge. Learn how to get started, how to find a problem to solve, and think through your concept. 

This virtual event was held on Wednesday, September 23 from 5-6:00 p.m.

Watch the recording for Let's Get Started.

Understanding Your Problem & Ideating a Solution

More deeply understand the problem you're trying to solve, your customer, and potential solutions. You'll be introduced to primary and secondary research. Learn to identify a problem and create a concise description of the proposed business and why it is unique/compelling; target market – who is your customer; and proposed solution – what is your product or service? How is it different from and superior to other solutions in the market?

This virtual workshop was held on Monday, October 5 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Watch the recording for Understanding your Problem & Ideating a Solution.

From Idea to Business

Get help focusing on market opportunities, potential business models, and value proposition. You'll learn learn:
  • Market Opportunity – a preliminary estimate of the size of the number of customers that can be reasonably addressed.
  • Business Model – How you will deliver this solution to your customer affordably and effectively, and make money
  • Why Should Someone Invest in Your Venture? Explain why you will be successful.

This virtual workshop was held on Monday, October 12 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Watch the recording for From Idea to Business.

Mentor Swarm

Meet with several different mentors to get help with your Fowler plans prior to the submission deadline of October 26.

This virtual event will be held on Monday, October 19 from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Register Here for the Mentor Swarm.

1:1 Help Sessions

1:1 Help Sessions are 30-minute meetings per individual or team with entrepreneurship faculty. There are several dates with different times, spread out throughout October. All sessions will be held over Zoom.

Register Here for a 1:1 appointment.

Scholarship Awards

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

Scholarship awards in each track:

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 per team
Audience Choice Award: $500 per team

Students who compete in the semifinals competition but do not advance to the finals competition will be awarded a scholarship of $1,000 per team.