University Economic Development Association


Award Category: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Project Site: PASSHE First Annual Student Business Plan Competition
Submitted By: Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Contact: Angela C. Smith-Aumen, 717.720.4018

Case Study


The goal was to develop an entrepreneurial culture within PASSHE that encourages students to consider business ownership as a viable career option.


The universities created new, innovative learning experiences, and public and private partnerships that focused on developing the skills of entrepreneurs and providing unique statewide marketing opportunities.

  • Rob Weber, Wharton Business School, and James Steele, AVP Finance-PSECU, presented three live Business Plan training sessions: 1) Idea/Opportunity, 2) Business Opportunity, and 3) Investment Opportunity. The sessions were subsequently available online.
  •  Representatives of the Pennsylvania Angel Network, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, as well as PSECU served as judges in the finalist round, providing feedback to students.
  •  The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development provided grant funding that supported the Business Plan Competition.
  • JPMorgan and the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU) provided funding for the Awards.
  • PASSHE partnered with the Penn State Research Foundation to serve as its Technology Transfer Office, providing efficient, affordable access to technology transfer expertise for students.
  • The Business Plan Committee conducted an inventory of the entrepreneurial curriculum across PASSHE resulting in a widely distributed course offerings available to any PASSHE student.
  • PASSHE utilized the Kauffman Foundation’s iStart portal, a customizable web-based platform, to manage 236 student Business Plan Competition submissions from the 14 campuses.
  • Statewide Marketing: PASSHE Advocacy Days: The awards ceremony for the Student Business Plan Competition was held in The Pennsylvania Capitol East Wing Rotunda in conjunction with PASSHE Annual Advocacy Days in the state capitol, Harrisburg. Advocacy Days are led by students from each of the fourteen universities, and included university presidents, alumni and trustees. The two day event involved meetings with legislators as part of the ongoing effort to generate support for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The meetings focused on several key themes, including quality and affordability, PASSHE long-term cost-control efforts and the important role PASSHE plays in the economic vitality of the Commonwealth. The Competition showcased the entrepreneurial spirit of PASSHE students and their ability to create companies and jobs across Pennsylvania for legislators. It also provided exciting legislative networking opportunities for student entrepreneurs.


A total of 236 students from 14 universities submitted business ideas. Of those, 49 business venture profiles were developed and screened by campus judges.  Of this group, 25 semi-finalists were sent on for judging by the external Judging Panel.

  • Business Plan Competition marketed to 120,000 students across 14 PASSHE universities
  • Student participation:  9.5% freshmen; 10% sophomores; 16.7% juniors; 50.8% seniors and 12.9% graduate students
  • Top ten majors of students submitting Business Plan Ideas starting with the most popular: 1. Business, 2. Marketing, 3. Communications, 4. Education, 5. Computer Science, 6. Entrepreneurship, 7. Finance, 8.Accounting, 9. Sports Management, 10. Social Work
  • MediaSite reported a total of 334 total views of the Business Plan Web Training sessions, which included 290 on-demand views.
  • Partial exploratory/start-up funding for three new student-owned businesses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Future Considerations

  • Sponsor Second Annual Student  Business Plan Competition 2012-2013
  • PASSHE universities continue to develop stronger relations with PA angel investors, venture capital funds, sponsors, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
  • Marketing to the university students actually engaged faculty who served as mentors to the students.
  • Students were introduced to an innovative way of developing a business strategy. Feedback on the quality of their submission was desired.
  • Improved information on the entrepreneurial curriculum of 14 universities will allow students to cross-enroll in any PASSHE university course.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Chattanooga on October 22, 2012. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.