TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The stakes have been raised in the annual Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition at The University of Alabama.
The competition, hosted by UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, began four years ago and has provided funding, space at the entrepreneurship hub The Edge, and professional mentoring for student-led startups. This year, the competition will award $50,000 to one of 40 teams that will compete Thursday, March 30, at the Bryant Conference Center.
“In my experience, and with some of the alumni helping us, we think $50,000 is the right amount to help someone start and grow a business,” said Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute. “And in looking at some of the ideas we’ve received thus far, I’d love to have even more prize money or a way to help more teams get funding for their businesses. We are working with a lot of teams that are making progress but not quite at the speed they need due to lack of start-up funds. ”
The first round of the competition will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday before breaking for lunch and a presentation by Edward K. Aldag Jr. at noon. The field will be narrowed for the second round, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. Winners will be announced at approximately 5:30 p.m. Business leaders from across Alabama will serve as judges
In addition to $50,000, the grand-prize-winning team will receive startup space at The Edge and mentorship from UA faculty and business professionals affiliated with the center. First-, second- and third-runners-up will receive $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. Those three teams also will receive space at The Edge, which provides co-working and incubation space at its facility on 22nd Avenue in Tuscaloosa. The Edge is being renovated to expand both work areas, Welbourne said.
The revamped business plan competition also will feature an expanded field of contestants compared to previous years, when only a handful of teams were selected from a preliminary group to present — including last year’s partnership during AIME Day, an annual showcase of burgeoning technologies and business plans. This year’s field will feature student teams that have incubated at the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs building on campus and groups comprised of students representing New College, the College of Community Health Sciences, Culverhouse and others.
“Only five teams competed in our earlier competitions,” Welbourne said. “Now we have 40 teams competing, so we’re working to get everyone involved.
“We don’t want to narrow it down to a small group because we want the students to have the experience of pitching their ideas to business leaders. Many plans will need some work, and the feedback from the judges will be invaluable. Next year, they’ll come back with a better presentation. And even if a team doesn’t place, you never know who is in the audience and whom you’ll impress.”
The Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition follows the debut of Edge Demo Days, an outreach program held in February on campus, and an overhaul of both the Alabama Enterprise Institute and The Edge. AEI looks to grow its entrepreneurship services and professional networking opportunities for UA students. The Edge, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and the city of Tuscaloosa, eventually will move into a new, 9,000-square-foot building.
The Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition is made possible by Aldag, a Culverhouse alumnus and founder, chairman, president and CEO of Medical Properties Trust of Birmingham.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.