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Hawk Tank competition lets students and alumni improve their business savvy

A fledgling yerba mate tea company earned $5,000 in last year’s inaugural Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Fort Lewis College School of Business Administration and Alumni Engagement Office.

Starting in January, a new group of contestants will get a chance to turn their own business visions into viable – and maybe prize-winning – strategic development plans in the 2017 Hawk Tank.

“This is the Four Corners’ premier business plan competition,” says Michael Valdez, associate professor in the School of Business Administration.

“Learning to build a business plan is valuable because it is the exact process of seeing whether an idea actually translates to a viable business operation,” Valdez says. “We want to set up all participants for success – not only success here, in the competition, but success moving forward.”

The annual competition is a prime opportunity for FLC students and recent alumni to formulate the steps from new business idea to storefront. To assist in participants’ success, Fort Lewis College offers a series of educational opportunities to improve participants’ business acumen leading up to the competition, with workshops, presentations, and a mentorship program with established local businesses.

With the curriculum provided throughout the competition, “You are going to have access to the material and resources to write your business plan,” says Valdez. “We are going to give you the mechanisms to be successful. Even if you don’t win, you’ve just taken your idea to the next level.”

Creating a business plan is a pivotal stage in a business’ development. “It is a document that outlines, in its entirety, what a company is going to do,” says Valdez. “Why do you have the company? What is the sustainable, competitive edge of the organization? What is the executive team? What are your goods and services? How financially viable is the organization? And what are the action items to make the company happen? That’s what a business plan is all about.”

Furthermore, Valdez notes that a business’ potential funding sources – from venture capitalists to loan officers – will likely request a thorough business plan to ensure a strong chance at long-term success.

The Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition is open to current FLC students and recent alumni who have graduated within five years in any major or field. Individuals and teams of up to five members are eligible to compete. At least one person on a team has to be a student or recent graduate and has to be the team leader.

Student-led business plan winners receive $5,000 for first place, the second place plan will earn $2500, and third place $1000. Alumni-led teams will vie for a $5,000 prize.

Last year’s Shark Tank-style competition finale took place in April. Alumnus Giancarlo Vigil (Economics, ’15) took home first place and $5,000 prize money for his tea company, The Mate Exchange. Second place – and $2,500 – went to Fields to Plate, a small-scale farm, and SLED Outdoors took home the $1,000 for third place.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to integrate the Durango community, as well,” Valdez says. “We would like to get the community paired up with students or recent alumni. They can truly participate. They can be a part of it.”

Community members and alumni who are interested in contributing their expertise to next year’s Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition are welcome to contact Valdez through the Hawk Tank website. The site also contains more details about entering the competition, as well as a complete schedule of events, relevant documents, sponsorship opportunities, and additional information.

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