There are many reasons for judges at the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge business plan competition to give up their weekend every year to volunteer for this complicated and sometimes intense process. They would say it is vital to give back and to advise up-and-coming entrepreneurs, minimizing the mistakes that inexperience brings. They are successful entrepreneurs and angel investors who want to encourage next-generation entrepreneurship.
This year’s competition—the 11th annual—took place Feb. 16-17 at the Louisville Downtown Marriott and saw many good ideas from student teams around the country. From a battery-powered trailer to help the trucking industry to all-natural, vitamin-infused drink mixers, the business concepts ran a wide spectrum. It was impressive to see the creativity and attention to detail as these teams presented their ideas and answered pointed questions about their plans and business viability. The judges, as investors, examined all of the necessary components in considering a business startup investment. Their goal was to advise the teams critically so they could improve their pitches, ultimately preparing for a day in the future when they present in front of real investors with real needs.
This year the teams came from across the country and Canada. In addition to UofL, other universities participating were the University of Kentucky (two teams), University of Oregon (two teams), University of Manitoba (Canada), University of Delaware, University of Notre Dame, UCLA, University of Arkansas, University of Toronto, and the University of Michigan.
No team leaves empty-handed. The minimum amount a team receives is $750 with the potential for as much as $100,000 in cash and prizes for the first place winner. This year, the University of Arkansas won first place for its business plan for Lapovations, LLC, a medical device that helps reduce tissue trauma during laparoscopic surgery. Second place went to WeavAir, pitching a plan for a company that makes sensors for HVAC systems that help to reduce energy consumption. Finally, third place went to the team from UofL, Mindful Mix, a company making vitamin- and herb-infused drink mixers in exotic flavors.
This event, put on in conjunction with Greater Louisville Inc. EnterpriseCorp., is made possible by the generous support of Brown-Forman. The Launch in Louisville package increases the value of the first-place award to $100,000 with in-kind services if the business makes Louisville its home. Launch in Louisville is offered through generous contributions from Frost, Brown Todd, Venture First, Business First, Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship, Interapt, Kentucky Science & Technology Corp., Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP, Sunflower Business Ventures, University of Louisville Real Estate Foundation, Venture Connectors and WBNA TV-21 DreamFunders. We thank them for their support.
Read more about the competition and the winners at: