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KNOXVILLE — Sixty-two individual students and teams representing six colleges and 21 majors participated in the inaugural Business Plan Competition sponsored by the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Competition winners and judges
Competition winners and judges
The Business Plan Competition was designed to develop and encourage an entrepreneurial culture on campus. The student-inspired contest was open to all undergraduates.

Sarah Gardial, associate dean of academic programs in the College of Business Administration, said the contest offered students “a great opportunity to develop skills in persuasive presentation, listening and constructive feedback.”

Seven finalists competed for the three top spots.

“All of these plans had the potential to create a viable commercial entity,” said Jim Atchley, executive vice president of First Tennessee Bank, chair of the judging committee.

The first-place winner of $5,000 was Andrew Bouldin, senior in finance, for “My College Road Trip,” a Web site where college students will discuss lodging, dining and travel; the second-place winner of $3,000 was John Custer, senior in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, for “Custauti Trucking,” which would use technology to improve freight-hauling vehicles’ fuel efficiency and emissions; and the third-place winner of $2,000 was Stefan Wilson, senior in enterprise management, for “SJW Tech Services,” a technology partner for businesses without IT departments.

Tom Graves, lecturer in the Department of Management, organized and implemented the competition. The overwhelming response “demonstrated a keen entrepreneurial interest throughout the university,” he said.

The competition consisted of three rounds, each requiring more difficult quantitative and qualitative analysis. Judges were local entrepreneurs and business executives.

“The opportunity to meet so many aspiring entrepreneurs and review their incredible business plans was truly amazing,” Atchley said.

In the first round of the competition, the 62 summaries were evaluated on the ability of the product or service to satisfy an identified need, sustain a competitive advantage and generate sufficient profit to succeed.

In the second round, 21 semi-finalists made seven-minute oral presentations to the judges.

“I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and the creativity of the ideas behind all the plans,” said judge Rebecca Harmon, vice president of human resources for DeRoyal Industries.

Seven finalists were given a week to complete their business plans and prepare 25-minute presentations.

“Serious planning, underscored by genuine enthusiasm, was the hallmark of each presentation,” Atchley said.

Custer, the second-place winner, said he was grateful for the chance to compete. “As a biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology major with no business background, this competition was particularly challenging and rewarding,” he said. “Extracurricular activities such as this competition allow students to build character and improve their education beyond coursework.”

Finalist Emily Stevens, a senior, said the competition was difficult, but rewarding. “I particularly enjoyed interacting with the judges,” she said. “As a marketing major, I was inspired to hear their input and suggestions on my plan; all of the judges had such extensive business backgrounds.”

The other finalists, in alphabetical order, were:

• William B. Brown, junior in sports management/business; Jillian Lofton, junior in public relations/business; and Justin G. Redd, junior in accounting and information management, for “Thousand Aisles,” a simple way to add speed and convenience to the grocery shopping experience, eliminating long lines, poor service and confusing product offerings.

• Zachery Lin, freshman in the College of Business Administration, for “QuickCar,” a company using full-service marketing to make it easier, more convenient and more lucrative for owners to sell their cars.

• Emily Stevens, senior in marketing/international business, and Jamison Walkup, fourth-year in architecture, for “Green Earth Café,” a company selling nutritious and organic fast food.

• Eric Watkins, senior in sociology/criminal justice/criminology, for “Revolution Video Games,” a video game retailer and repair service.

Along with Atchley and Harmon, judges were: Jim Brogan, president and founder, Brogan Financial Services; Leigh Burch, president, Terminus Real Estate & Sterchi Development LLC; Jennifer Holder, vice president of marketing, First Tennessee Bank; Bill Jenkins, retired vice chairman, executive committee, Henkel Corp.; Lori Rizzo, performance improvement coordinator, Blount County Hospital; and Mike West, founding partner, NorthShore Capital Advisors.


Cindy Raines, (865) 974-4359, craines1@utk.edu