Albers School of Business and Economics
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center

Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition

  • Background

    The Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition is the year's main event for Seattle University's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (IEC). Prominent early-stage company investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders from the Seattle area will judge the presentations by the final four student teams. Prizes Prior winners have launched actual ventures that have successfully raised more than $4 million in initial capital.

    Special thanks to the many individuals who have generously shared their time and energy in this competition, including sponsors, mentors, judges, presenters, staff, and IEC Advisory Board members.

    The Business Plan Competition was started in 1998 by Dr. Harriet Stephenson, a Seattle University faculty member since 1967. It is designed to help students and alumni in launching new business ventures, including for-profit businesses, not-for-profit businesses, corporate entrepreneurship, and social enterprise. Participants enhance their Seattle University learning experience, gain feedback on ideas, develop networks, are encouraged to participate in the UW’s northwest invitational business plan competition, and expose their ideas to potential investors.

    2015 Business Plan Competition Winners

    • Grand Prize Winner- Nocturnal Brewing
    • 2nd Place Prize - Eldergrow
    • 3rd Place Prize- NutPods
    • 4th Place Prize- Casebooker
    • Elgin & Elaine Baylor Social Enterprise Award -Yesler Terrace Food Cart Pod
    • Community Choice Trade Show Award - TenderCure
    • Community Choice Finals Award - ElderGrow
    • Special Recognition Award - RainCity Heart Labs and Mimi Bugs
    • Organizational Innovation Award: MED25 International

    2015 Sponsors

    Venture Sponsors

    • JP Morgan Chase
    • Seattle Housing Authority

    Angel Supporters

    • Herbert B. Jones Foundation
    • May McCarthy and Don Smith
    • Kent Johnson & Family

    Champion Supporters

    • John Meisenbach/MCM
    • Rob Harris/ PMI
    • Columbia Tower Club

    Friend & Startup Supporters

    • Bill Barks
    • Robin Shapiro
    • Ruth Tressel
    • Kurt Wedgwood - IBM
    • Jim Fitzsimmons
    • Adrian Smith/Ignition Partners
    • Keiretsu Forum
    • Kathleen Miller/Miller Advisors
    • Don Leuthold
    • Randy Massengale
    • Dave Van Patten
    • Powerleaps LLC
    • Chuck Roxin
    • Andrew Klein
    • John Wheeler
    • Columbia Tower Club

    Special Thanks to:

    2015 Coaches and Volunteers

    18th Annual Seattle University Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition

    Check out the past winners of the Business Plan Competitions.

    Why participate?

    Seattle University’s 18th annual Business Plan Competition is designed to help students and alumni in launching new business ventures:

    • For-profit Businesses
    • Not-for-Profit Businesses
    • Corporate Entrepreneurship
    • Social Enterprise

    As part of this experience, participants will enhance their Seattle University learning experience, gain feedback on ideas, develop networks, be encouraged to participate in the UW’s northwest invitational business plan competition, and expose their ideas to potential investors.

     Are there cash awards?

    Yes. The Grand Prize winner will walk away with $10,000! Please see below for all award categories and prizes.

    Final Round

    • $10,000 Grand Prize
    • $5,000 Runner-up Prize
    • Prizes for the two remaining finalists

    Other awards

    • Social Enterprise Award
    • Special Recognition Award
    • Community Choice Trade Show Award
    • Community Choice Finals Award
    • Trade Show Judges Award
    • Elevator Pitch Judges Award
    • Organizational Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award

    Note: While not expected, please note that cash prizes and prize categories are subject to change.

    Who can participate?

    Any enrolled Seattle University students or Seattle University alumni can participate in the competition (see Rules & Eligibility for details). A team participating in the competition can consist of one or more contestants and can include non-students. However, there must be at least one SU student or alumnus on each team. We encourage all participants to take advantage of all the resources provided, mentors, prep sessions, etc.

    How is the Seattle University Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition Organized?

    There are three major parts to the competition:

    1. The Screening Round is the initial review of business plans that determines which teams will be moving ahead to the Trade Show/Elevator Pitch Round. Approximately 15-20 teams are chosen to progress to the next round. 
    2. The Trade Show/Elevator Pitch Round is divided into two distinct parts:
      • Part 1: The Trade Show is a giant fair where teams have a space in the Campion Ballroom to set up a display and present their business idea. You may have a total of four members of your team, including the student/alumni member, working your booth.Teams are scored by two constituents:
        1. Trade Show judges. Trade Show judges are pre-selected judges chosen by the Entrepreneurship Center who visit the booths and select a minimum of three teams they feel have the best business idea and presentation.
        2. Community Choice judges. Community Choice judges consist of fellow students, friends, and other members of the community who visit the displays and then vote on their favorite business ideas and presentations. They may vote for one to five business ideas and presentations.
      • Part 2: The Elevator Pitch Round consists of a three minute pitch of the team’s business plan, presented by the active SU student or SU alum, in front of a panel of judges. Two minutes are also given for a question and answer session. During the Trade Show, each team will designate one member (student or alum) to give their three-minute Elevator Pitch. While absent from the Trade Show giving your Elevator Pitch, be sure to have a back-up person manning your Trade Show booth. If you are the only person on your team, it is possible to engage up to two other non-team individuals to help with the booth and make presentations to Trade Show and Community Choice judges.

        The combined results of the Trade Show scores, given by the Community Choice judges and the official Trade Show judges, as well as the scores from the Elevator Pitch Round and Screening Round, will narrow the field down to the final teams that will continue to the Final Presentation Round.
    3. The Final Presentation Round is where the final teams present their complete business plan to a panel of judges.
      Normally, four teams will proceed to the Final Presentation round (exceptions to this number may be made based on the quality of business plans submitted). The Final Presentations focus on the complete business plan where teams present their plans to a group of judges and field questions. Presentations are open to investors, Seattle University faculty, staff, alumni, students, and Seattle University friends. Teams will give a maximum 15 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers. The judges will meet after the presentations to make final award decisions. Winners will not be announced until the Awards Reception. The presenters will receive feedback from the judges in written form and mentoring within a week after their presentations.
    4. The finalist teams will receive special coaching sessions prior to their final presentations. If teams choose to revise their final plan before the final coaching session, the business plan will be due back three days prior to the coaching session to give the coaches time to review it. After the coaching sessions, the final business plans will be due at least six days prior to the Final Presentations. The finalist teams will also be required to create a Power Point presentation for the Final Presentation.

    Business Plan Competition Rules & Eligibility

    Teams must comply with the following criteria to be eligible for the competition. Please read carefully! (NOTE: We have done our best to align our rules with the UW 2016 Business Plan Competition rules so contestants can participate in both competitions with the same material. However, please be aware there may be slight differences. See bottom of page for details).

    1. The Seattle University Business Plan Competition is limited to teams that include active SU students or alumni as defined below:
      • Seattle University students enrolled either full-time or part-time in degree programs during one or more of the following academic periods: Summer 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, or Spring 2016 at Seattle University.
      • Seattle University alumni who have graduated from SU prior to the Summer 2015 academic period. SU Alumni from any school or college within the university are eligible to participate in the competition, not just Albers School of Business and Economics alumni.
    2. Non-student business professionals are allowed as team members, but there must be a Seattle University student or alum on the team.
    3. The business plan must be developed during the current school year and the student/alumnus must have played a major role in writing the plan.
    4. Working with outside entrepreneurs with existing businesses/business ideas is permissible but as noted in #3 above, the student/alumnus must write the plan.
    5. Total company revenues cannot exceed $500K (for existing businesses without a business plan).
    6. In the Trade Show Round, no more than four team members, including both students/alumni and nonstudents, may present their business concept to the judges at their booth.
    7. In the final presentation round of the competition, only students or alumni will present.
    8. The Director of the Entrepreneurship Center reserves the right to make the final determination of the appropriateness of submitted business ventures. Not all prizes may be awarded depending on the quality of submissions.

     Note: University of Washington Business Plan Competition may have the additional qualifications:

    1. Students must have an ownership stake in the business or the potential for equity or employment.
    2. Only student team members are eligible to win prize money. No payments will be made to non-students.
    3. Alumni are not allowed to participate as the key member of the team. Each team must have a current student.
    4. While we try to be consistent, there may be different judging criteria for business plans between UW and SU.


    The Seattle University Business Plan Competition considers all submitted business plans as confidential and treats all team matters accordingly. But, due to the nature of the event, we cannot guarantee complete confidentiality for proprietary matters. Seattle University, The Entrepreneurship Center, the Albers School of Business and Economics, and the organizers of the competition are not responsible for any proprietary information and/or intellectual property included in a submitted business plan.

    Ultimately, protection of sensitive materials such as intellectual property, copyright, or patent confidentiality is the sole responsibility of the individual or team participating in the competition. Non-Disclosure Agreements will not be signed by judges, mentors, or any SU staff associated with the business plan competition, so please do not ask.

    Seattle University Business Plan Competition Dates to Remember

    Thursday,October 29, 2015
    IEC BPC Mixer
    5pm -7pm  Admission & Alumni Building

    Thursday,December 10, 2015
    IEC Holiday Party
    6:30 -8:30pm  Admission & Alumni Building

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    Business Plan Competition Resource Night " Make Your Business Plan Shine"
    5pm-7pm Admission & Alumni Building

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Business Plan Competition Resource Night " Make Your Business Plan Shine"
    5pm-7pm Admission & Alumni Building

    Monday, February 22, 2016

     DEADLINE to submit Intent to Enter. Due by 12 p.m/Noon (NO EXCEPTIONS). The Intent to Enter form is available on the EC website:

    Monday, February 22, 2016

     DEADLINE to submit Business Plan Summary (2-3 pages). Due by 12 p.m (NO EXCEPTIONS). Send to The 2-3 page business plan summary  will be your official submission to the Business Plan Competition.

    Tuesday, February 23rd to Tuesday, March 1st

    The Screening Round begins. Business plans will be reviewed by a panel of judges and will determine whether who continues on to the Trade Show/Elevator Pitch Round.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    Announcement of which teams are advancing to the Trade Show/Elevator Pitch Round. Judge's critiques of business plans will be returned electronically by March 7th.

    Saturday, March 5, 2016

     MANDATORY Business Plan Competition /Entrepreneurs Mini Boot camp
    Room TBD from 9 am- 1pm.

    Friday, April 8, 2016

     DEADLINE to submit electronic copy of a one-page business summary due (must be submitted to by 12 p.m., NO EXCEPTIONS).

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Trade Show
    Noon. - 2 p.m. Campion Ballroom
    The Trade Show is open to the Seattle University community, friends, family, colleagues, and the public. Set-up can begin at 9:30 am.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Elevator Pitch Round
    11 a.m. - Noon. Campion Ballroom

    Thursday, April 14, 2016

    Notification to Trade Show/Elevator Pitch Round participants of which teams advance to the Final Round.

     TBD (tentative)
    First round of coaching sessions for teams advancing to the final round. These mandatory sessions are generally two hours per team.

     TBD (tentative)
    Second round of coaching sessions for teams advancing to the final round. These mandatory sessions are generally two hours per team.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016

     DEADLINE to submit complete business plan (12-15 pages with up to 5 additional pages for appendix allowed). Submit electronic copy as attachment due to by 5pm.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    Final Presentation Day
    4:00 -7:30pm in Campion Ballroom

    Finals Agenda

    • Welcome and Introduction
    • Four finalists teams present
    • Audience Voting
    • Keynote and dinner
    • Announce winner

  • 2014 Business Plan Competition Grand Prize Winners: Wanderlust- Jonathan Parsay & Alex Walz

  • As I have worked my way through the process I have learned far more than I expected and worked harder than I ever planned, but I found that the building of a business plan and the working to solve the many business issues that come up as each piece of information became known has been the most rewarding part of the process.

    Ron Cody 2011 business plan contestant
  • I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this experience was the hardest I have worked during my academic career at Seattle U (both grad and undergrad) but also the most rewarding – This competition forces you (and allows you!) to blend every single class, subject and lesson into one experience.

    Gayatri Eassey 2011 business plan contestant
  • I want to express how incredibly valuable the business plan competition has been. I feel extremely blessed to have benefited from the mentoring and intense coaching sessions. My plan is stronger, my business is stronger, and the experience has exponentially increased the value of my MBA coursework at Albers

    David Yunger 2011 business plan contestant