University of Saskatchewan Venture Forward Business Plan Competition

    The Venture Forward business plan competition is hosted by the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Commerce in partnership with Global Infobrokers Inc. and RSVP Event Design. It began in 2004 and its sponsors claim it is the premier competition of its kind in Canada. Its mission is to keep college graduates in the province of Saskatchewan and to increase that province’s economy.

    The competition hopes to achieve these goals through sponsored prizes totaling more than $100,000 (all amounts listed are Canadian). The first-place winner takes home $25,000 and enters into a business relationship with Cameco, the competition’s Platinum-level sponsor. The second-place prize earns $15,000 from the Gold Sponsor, PIC Investment Group. Third place earns $10,000 from the Silver sponsor (as of this writing, the silver sponsorship was still available for the 2007 competition). Each of these winners also receives start-up support and mentoring. Additionally, there are up to 7 bronze awards for other exceptional teams. These awards are based on reimbursements of up to $2,000 for start-up costs, but these must be approved by the contest organizers before being submitted to the sponsors for reimbursement.

    Teams wishing to enter Venture Forward must be based in Canada and want to start a business with its head office in Saskatchewan. At least one member of the executive team has to be a current student or recent graduate of a post-secondary institution (i.e. college or university).

    Teams enter the contest by sending a business proposal summary to RSVP in January. Finalists are given notice by the end of January that they will move on to the next round. During the next four months, competitors work on their final plans and attend workshops sponsored by the contest organizers. They submit the full business plan at the end of April, and judges have two weeks to peruse each of the plans before the competition.

    In 2007, the final competition took place on May 16-17 at the Delta Bessborough Hotel. The first day is set up like a trade show for all finalists, open to the public. This gives competitors a chance to answer questions in an informal situation. The second day consists of presentations to the judges during the day, and the awards gala at night.