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UNM business plan contest opens to CNM students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This year’s University of New Mexico business plan competition will include students from Central New Mexico Community College, plus a lot more prize money.

The deans of UNM’s Anderson School of Management and CNM’s School of Business and Information Technology have signed a memorandum of understanding to open the 11-year old competition to CNM students for the first time. Event organizers also lined up more sponsors to expand the number of winning spots, putting more prize money up for grabs in the annual two-track event, which includes teams vying for best technology and best non-technology business plans.

At least 35 teams are expected to compete this year, up from 20 last year, with 43 students signed up so far from both UNM and CNM.

Rather than the previous three prizes in each track, the banquet awards this April will include six prizes for both the tech and non-tech competitions. A total of  $87,000 in prize money will be awarded, up from $75,000 last year.

The prizes now range from a high of $25,000 and $10,000, respectively, for tech and non-tech first-place winners, to  $1,000 for sixth-place winners in both tracks. Sponsors include local businesses, the national laboratories and professional organizations.

“Our collaboration with CNM and its entrepreneurial programs provides the opportunity to develop more college students into entrepreneurs with the education, resources and mindset to grow their startup ventures and bolster economic development in New Mexico,” said distinguished Anderson professor Sul Kassicieh, the school’s endowed chair in economic development who started the business plan competition in 2005.

The event provides students with hands-on experience in starting and building a business, including mentoring and coaching. They compete at the awards banquet with business plan pitches to a panel of judges.

Nearly $500,000 has been awarded to 39 student companies over the last decade. Many are still actively pursuing their business ideas.

Some have gone on to participate in Albuquerque’s ABQid business accelerator and the IGNITE Community Accelerator at CNM’s STEMulus Center Downtown.

And some IGNITE participants plan to compete for prizes this year.

“The business plan competition has been an amazing success and a jumping-off point for students to get business experience and work with mentors and entrepreneurs,” said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus initiatives. “It can have a real trampoline effect. Often, first-time entrepreneurs need incentives to create a business and a company, and this can provide the impetus for students to do that.”

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