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The purpose of this SBI Program Spotlight is to showcase the great work of our member institutions and inform the public of how the Small Business Institute impacts our students, clients, and local communities.

April 2019 

Member Spotlight

Ken Klotz - Bradley University

Bradley University's Big Idea Competition

Bradley University Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation allows students to share their Big Ideas and win big. Although these type of competitions are often referred to as Business Plan Competitions, Ken Klotz, Managing Director of the Turner School found there always seemed to be a disconnect with students when they advertised these competitions as “business plan” competitions. He indicated students assumed a business plan competition only pertained to business majors and those outside of business rarely entered. Changing the competition name to The Big Idea Competition opened the door for non-business majors to enter as well.

The competition operates in a three round format. To enter the first round of the competition, students only needed a two-page summary of their idea. In mid-February, over 100 students turned in a 2-page summary of their ideas. The screening committee then selected 25 of the best ideas to move on to the second round.

The second round took place in mid-March and it is a combination of a trade show and an elevator pitch. Judges interact throughout the trade show by viewing table top displays, talking to teams and evaluating their ideas. Two types of judges engage in the competition. Faculty, professional staff, and seasoned business people make up one type of judge, with 40-50 people involved, and students also get to take part in evaluating their peers, with more than 600 students taking part!

The trade show lasts 3 hours and the elevator pitches are conducted simultaneously in a separate room with a separate panel. Judges then blend scores for the displays and pitches, and the top 6 move on to the finals.

The finals take place in late April. Students who move on to the finals are required to submit a 20-page business plan with financial projections and give a 10-minute pitch to a new panel of judges.

The Big Idea Competition awards cash prizes totaling $17,000. First Place wins $8000, 2nd Place wins $5000, 3rd Place wins $2000, 4th Place wins $1000 and 5th and 6th Place win $500. No team walks away empty handed.

In terms of advice for others, Ken says, “The "Secret Sauce" in getting students to participate in the second round trade show is to allow every student attendee to vote.  This gives competitors an incentive to invite students to attend.  To avoid student votes skewing the results, we assign a weight of 30% to the student votes and 70% to the votes of faculty/staff/business community.”

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