For University of Mississippi students, the dream of launching their own businesses can become a reality through the UM School of Business Administration’s Gillespie Business Plan Competition.
The Gillespie Business Plan Competition is hosted by the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and gives young entrepreneurs the ability to develop their business ideas. Many Ole Miss students have launched successful companies with help from entrepreneurial starts gained from the annual competition.
Last year’s winners, Jake Harrison and Tyler Moore, thought of their business, Move Fitness, after noticing the monotony of workout routines and lack of innovation in the fitness industry. They designed the exercise product GluteMove, and the product is currently in the seed-funding stage.
Moore, who graduated in 2019, said that the Gillespie Business Plan Competition made a significant impact on starting his career as a business owner.
“The opportunity to compete in this competition provided me with such skills that you will not learn in the classroom. It has allowed me to have a foot in the door with local venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, and most importantly, (it) gave our business a chance to grow with support from the CIE,” Moore said.
Harrison, an exercise science graduate, encourages his peers to firmly believe in and stand by their business ideas throughout the competition.
“To those interested in entering the competition, I will say (to) just put yourself and your business out there and see what happens. It’s a no-lose situation,” Harrison said. “Don’t be afraid to detach and view your business with a scrutinizing perspective.”
The endowment for the competition was provided in honor of Edwin C. Gillespie, a 1943 business administration graduate. His wife, Jean Gillespie, and brother, Joe Gillespie helped establish the endowment in 2006 to help students and promote concepts in entrepreneurship.
According to startup statistics from Small Business Trends, only 4% of small business owners are between 18 and 29 years old.
Maverick McSparin, a student assistant at the CIE and co-president of the university’s Entrepreneurship Club, said the Gillespie Business Plan Competition gives young people, who would usually be too afraid or overwhelmed about launching their own businesses, the opportunity to do so.
“Our goal is to provide student businesses with the funds they need to create their ideas, grow their ideas or just, in general, create an entrepreneurial spirit,” McSparin said. “I want people to not only know how to present their businesses but to understand the process that goes into creating and maintaining one.”
First-place winners receive $10,000 and one year of rent-free office space at Insight Park, the university’s Innovation Hub. Second-place winners receive $5,000, and the two runner-ups receive $3,000 in their bursar accounts. The Thomas W. Colbert-Community Bank Innovation Award, a $5,000 prize to recognize outstanding products or services or development of a technological change, is also given.
“We try to get students and future entrepreneurs out of their comfort level. We want them to be out there and to expose their ideas. A lot of young people have great ideas, but they are too scared to talk, so this process gears that toward real life,” McSparin said.
Applicants must submit an online application form that tells the judges specifics of their business proposal, such as how they plan to make money and why customers will love their product.
This year’s event will take place on April 17 at the Jackson Avenue Center and is open to any university student.