Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition

Since 1998, the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition has been providing a platform for all Seattle University students and alumni to pitch entrepreneurial ideas and launch their businesses.

Heidi Dishneau doing her pitch at the 2023 Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition

A Launchpad for New Business Ideas

The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center's Business Plan Competition was started in 1998 by Professor Emerita Dr. Harriet Stephenson, a Seattle University faculty member who began teaching in 1967. When asked what the impetus was in starting it, she said, "Building credibility. We wanted to be part of the leadership pack in developing entrepreneurship programs on the West Coast."Harriet Stephenson portrait

The Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition (HSBPC) 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, and expose their ideas to potential investors.

The competition has become a testing ground for a wide range of Seattle University business ideas, from automated sunscreen dispensers to a nonprofit school for children with autism. It has given away over $400,000 in prize money and started numerous former contestants on their first entrepreneurial journeys.

Teams led by Seattle University students and alumni advance through three rounds of judging and feedback to see who will take home the $20,000 Grand Prize.

The HSBPC is a public event and draws hundreds of investors, advisors, business leaders, community members, students, alumni, and faculty as audience members. 

2024 HSBPC Key Dates

  • Jan 17, Jan 31, Feb 14, Feb 28, Mar 13: Wednesday Workshops (12-1 p.m.)
  • March 19: Entry Deadline (11:59 p.m.)
  • March 20-24: Screening Round Judging
  • March 26: Announce Semi-Finalists
  • April 14: Pitch Retreat for Semi-Finalists (12-4 p.m.)
  • May 3: Semi-Finals (3-6 p.m.)
  • Mid-May: Finalist Team Coaching
  • May 31: Finals & Awards (5-8 p.m.)

Cash Prizes

Audience applaudingThe Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center is grateful for the continued support of our generous prize sponsors who make this competition possible.

Grand Prize: $20,000
The Herbert B. Jones Foundation and The Madeline Haydon Award for Entrepreneurship

2nd Place Prize: $10,000
John Meisenbach and The Madeline Haydon Award for Entrepreneurship

3rd Place Prize: $3,000
In Memory of Don Leuthold and Friends of the IEC

4th Place Prize: $2,000
Lindsey McGrew, '19 MBA

John Castle Award for Grit & Resilience: $2,000
John Castle Family and Ro Health

Social Innovation Award: $,1000
Elaine Baylor and Friends of the IEC

Pitch Judge Award: $500
Kurt Wedgwood

Tradeshow Judge Award: $250
Friends of the IEC

Semi-Finals Audience Choice Award: $250
Friends of the IEC

What contestants gain from the competition "Relationships; stronger ideas; personal growth."

Lindsey McGrew, 19 MBA

"Meeting with my mentors and practicing my pitch over 300 times drove our concept into winning the grand prize. Being a successful entrepreneur is about having great ideas and continuing to grow those ideas with rewarding relationships, persistence, and follow-through. Even if you don't place in the finals, you will walk away with new relationships, stronger ideas, and personal growth."

2016 winner for The Madrone School


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.

A presenter in front of an audienceSeattle University, the Innovation & 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.

Get answers to your HSBPC questions