The UMaine Business Challenge, Maine’s largest student business plan competition, has landed a major corporate sponsor that will secure its future for at least the next three years.
Business Lending Solutions, an organization in Hampden created by Maine’s credit unions to provide business loans, has committed $30,000 to sponsor the business plan competition through 2018.
The UMaine Business Challenge, entering its sixth year, is open to student entrepreneurs from any Maine college or university.
The size of the monetary awards won’t change with Business Lending Solutions’ sponsorship (the 1st-place prize will remain $5,000), but it will allow the organizers to focus on developing the best program rather than on raising money, according to Nicholas LaJoie, chair of the 2016-2017 UMaine Business Challenge planning committee.
“This agreement represents a turning point for the UMaine Business Challenge, allowing us to shift our focus from prize fundraising to developing high-quality programming that teaches students how to create and present a successful business plan,” LaJoie said in a statement. “We’re very excited to partner with Business Lending Solutions on this next phase of the UMaine Business Challenge.”
A pair of Colby College students won last year’s competition, and the 1st place prize of $5,000, for a food-ordering mobile app. An additional $5,000 provided by the Fournier Family Foundation was also awarded as the technology prize to a UMaine student for his plan to develop “virtual reality exposure therapy” software.
In addition to funding the 1st-place cash prize of $5,000, Business Lending Solutions will provide student competitors with consulting support throughout the competition, and work closely with the student organizers to expand the competition’s reach and encourage greater statewide participation.
“BLS was created to put the needs of Maine businesses and entrepreneurs first, which is what made the partnership with the UMaine Business Challenge such a natural fit,” Will Hatt, Business Lending Solutions’ chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We strongly believe in Maine’s entrepreneurial spirit and in Maine-based companies being a key driver of local, regional and increasingly global economic activity.”
Students interested in participating in the contest have until Dec. 16, 2016, to signify their intent to participate. The remaining phases of the competition will take place throughout the academic year and conclude with a final pitch event in April 2017.