More fledgling business ideas than ever are expected to fly from the Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition in Spring 2019, thanks to Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center funding that will open up the popular competition to local high school students.
Hawk Tank High School will mirror the same business plan pitch format as the original competition for current Fort Lewis College students and alumni, but the awards will be scholarships to FLC instead of cash to put toward a startup.
“We’re awarding $47,000 in scholarships and cash awards,” says Michael Valdez, associate professor in the School of Business Administration. “The institution is making a huge investment in this program because we’re committed to helping out our community and our high school students.”
Hawk Tank High School will be more than a day-long competition with significant prizes at stake. The students’ learning experience will be part workshop and mentorship, where they’ll access in-person support from faculty and business professionals and substantial research resources, like the Reed Library patent librarian. SOBA expects the competition to not only further develop students’ entrepreneurial capabilities and spirit, but to spark their interest in FLC, specifically the school’s Entrepreneurship major launching Fall 2019.
“ SOBA places a great emphasis on creating opportunities for our students. Now we are excited to create opportunities for our potential students, with the hopes of encouraging entrepreneurial activity among high school students throughout the region.
Steven Elias, dean of the School of Business Administration
“There may be a lot of entrepreneurial high school students who have an idea, but they don’t know what to do with that. We would love if they got the bug and they wanted to explore that at Fort Lewis,” says Valdez. “If they learn the skills and go back to their home and do some economic development, then I think we served our purpose as Hawk Tank High School. Because that is our purpose - the betterment of communities, of individuals, and their families.”
SOBA is working with FLC’s American Indian Business Leaders to develop and promote the competition to local high schools, from Aztec and Farmington area high schools, to Bloomfield, Shiprock, Dulce, and Newcomb high schools. Southwestern Colorado high schools will also be invited to send student teams. Faculty and AIBL will be doing in-person outreach to schools through the month of January, before the intent to participate deadline on February 11.
After the intent deadline, teams of up to three students will have just over a month to craft their business pitches. They will work with mentors, either FLC alumni, faculty, or members of the Beta Alpha Psi honor society, as well as attend in-person or virtual workshops to create a final plan for submission.
“They’re going to be working with their college counterparts, they’re going to be able to pitch their ideas to each other, and they’re going to have access to these business leaders who can help them articulate what their idea is and maybe show them what the next step is,” says Valdez.
First round results will be announced at the end of March and on April 6, students will find out which plans are tickets to FLC. First place team members will each receive an $8,000 total scholarship and a $1,000 cash award to split. Second place is a $4,000 total individual scholarship and $500 team cash award, and third place is a $2,000 total individual scholarship and $250 team cash award.
“SOBA places a great emphasis on creating opportunities for our students. Now we are excited to create opportunities for our potential students, with the hopes of encouraging entrepreneurial activity among high school students throughout the region,” says Steven Elias, dean of the School of Business Administration. "On April 6, it will be awesome to welcome these high school students to SOBA’s annual banquet, which brings together our Hawk Tank winners, business student award recipients, SOBA faculty members, and the business community."
Creating a track to FLC for local high school students feeds into SOBA’s ultimate goal of being the economic hub for the Four Corners region.
“We want to be that epicenter for entrepreneurship and economic development in the entire Four Corners area, and this is just one component of the ecosystem that we’re developing,” says Valdez.
By providing an opportunity to the students, more business ideas come to venture capitalists and financial institutions in the area, entrepreneurial talent is developed locally, and collaboration with community leaders helps keep that talent here.
High school students interested in competing in Hawk Tank can learn more through the High School Hawk Tank link on the Hawk Tank website. The site contains more details about entering the competition, as well as a complete schedule of events, relevant documents, and FLC contact information.