Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Collegiate Business Plan Competition (2004-2017)

2017 Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Competition Winners

Graduate Division:

  1. Grox Industries, University of Arkansas – $30,000
  2. RAD, University of Nevada Las Vegas  – $20,000

Undergraduate Division:

  1. L I M I T, Sierra Nevada College – $30,000
  2. GameTrainer, University of Nevada Las Vegas  – $20,000

The Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Award is the pinnacle of Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competitions in Arkansas, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The first- and second-place winners in the undergraduate and graduate divisions in each competition are invited Las Vegas to compete for a total cash prize pool of $118,000.

In addition to their presentations to a national panel of judges May 31, the 12 teams had another opportunity to promote their business ideas to a wider audience, including representatives of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, via a :90-second elevator pitch competition at the awards dinner. Arkansas teams won both categories – the undergraduate division winner was Michael Bennett, representing Easy Dam from John Brown University, and Tiffany Jarrett scored first place in the graduate division for Rejuvenics Technologies from the University of Arkansas. Both Bennett and Jarrett were presented with $2,000 cash prizes.

This is the final year of the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State competition. Since the first state competitions in 2004 (with Tri-State added in 2008), the Reynolds Foundation invested more than $9 million in grants. Arkansas Capital launched the state’s first business plan competition in 2001, which paved the way to the partnership with the Reynolds Foundation over 12 of the last 13 years.

Since the first Tri-State event in 2008, more than 1,500 teams have competed from nearly 40 colleges and universities throughout the three states, winning $6.2 million in cash awards.



Not every circumstance can be anticipated. The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation (AEAF) reserves the right to disqualify any team that violates the rules, regulations, or the spirit of the competition.


The Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Competition is an invitation-only event. Invitations are extended to the first and second place winners in the undergraduate and graduate divisions of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competitions in ArkansasOklahoma, and Nevada.


Team size cannot exceed six members. Team members presenting at Tri-State must be the same as those who presented in the state competitions. Substitutions of team members are not allowed. Non-student members cannot participate in any presentations. The management team outlined in the plan must contain the names of individuals (if any) who are not associated with the university.


Teams with at least one member enrolled in graduate school during the academic year must compete in the graduate track of the competition.


The business plan must represent the original work of team members. For example: If a team builds a business plan upon an idea from an outside person or entity, the team cannot take material or information (such as market and competitive analysis, financials, operating strategies, etc.) from that person or entity for use in their Governor’s Cup business plan. By submitting a plan into the competition, the team automatically affirms this requirement. Any team submitting a plagiarized business plan will be disqualified.

The author(s) will retain all rights to the plan regarding its use at all times prior to and following the competition, except as stated elsewhere in these rules.

The plans may not contain fabricated information about (but not limited to) the following: backgrounds, experience and educational levels of members of the management team, stage of product development, product performance claims, or market survey results.


Due to the nature of the competition, AEAF will not ask judges, reviewers, sponsors, staff or the audience to agree to or sign non-disclosure statements for any competitor. By participating in the competition, competitors agree that neither AEAF, Arkansas Capital Corporation; nor members of the judging panels; sponsors, nor their designate organizations; assume any liability for any disclosures of business plan information which may be made (whether inadvertently or otherwise) by any judge, reviewer, staff member, audience member, or other individual connected with, participating in, viewing, hearing, or receiving information from the competition.


Previous efforts to establish the business or participating in business-like activities which include, but are not limited to the following: attempts to raise capital, developing and presenting the business plan to potential investors, and conducting substantial market research outside of the 2016-2017 academic year will be disqualified. This includes business plans that were submitted in previous Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup or Oklahoma Love’s Cup competitions.

The business plan must be for a new and independent venture in the seed, start-up, or early-growth stages. Plans that include proposals for buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, spin-outs from existing corporations, and other consulting projects or analyses are not eligible. Non-profit proposals are also not eligible. Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is encouraged, assuming they have not been commercialized previously.

Teams may submit plans based on a technology, product, or service that has been licensed from another company, private inventor, or university with their written approval.

Revenue streams from the business should not be based solely on deriving revenues from the licensing of its own technologies.


The business should not have received more than $200,000 in equity-related capital (such as seed capital or institutional funding), or generated more than $100,000 in gross revenue prior to the current academic year. Revenue generated during a test-marketing project may be excluded from this provision.


Team members and advisors cannot observe other team presentations until after their own presentations are finished.

No one will be allowed to enter or leave presentation rooms once the doors are shut and until the presentation session is complete.

Any observers engaging in communication with a team during its presentation, such as, but not limited to, head movements, hand gestures or signaling, will be asked to leave the room and the team will be disqualified from the competition.


All presentations are open to the public. Any data or information discussed or divulged in presentations should be considered information that will likely enter the public realm, and entrants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged, or presented in these sessions. Neither the host organizations, judges, sponsors, nor their designate organizations, assume any duty to screen or otherwise control the identity of those attending, viewing or hearing all or part of these public sessions, and entrants agree that by entering the competition they have been made aware that such attendees, viewers, and recipients may include members of the media and potential competitors in addition to members of the financial community, students and faculty.


By participating in Tri-State, student entrants agree to grant the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, Arkansas Capital Corporation, and/or organizations designated by them the unlimited right to videotape, photograph, audiotape, transcribe or otherwise record all public sessions of the competition, including, but not limited to, oral presentations and question-and-answer sessions. All entrants agree that the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, Arkansas Capital, and/or their designate organizations may use any such transcriptions and/or recording(s) (in whole or part) for such publicity and marketing purposes as their organizations may see fit, including those which may result in profit. All business plans become property of the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation and will be shredded after the competition with one copy maintained for archival purposes only.


Tri-State teams must upload business plans and PowerPoints for their presentations in advance of the competition.

A customized Dropbox link for each team will be provided to advisors and team leaders for these uploads through your state representatives – Arkansas (Marie Bruno), Nevada (Kendra Wong), Oklahoma (Sarah Seagraves). Deadlines:

  • BUSINESS PLANS – Upload by 11:59 p.m. CDT Monday, May 15.
  • POWERPOINTS – Upload by 11:59 p.m. CDT Wednesday, May 24.

Business plans must be uploaded as PDFs. Please ensure the name of the plan document is the same as the name of the team.

Note: Teams can revise their PowerPoint presentations at any time up to their scheduled presentation May 31. Should there be an issue with the PowerPoint file during the presentation, this backup file will be available.


Business plans submitted for Tri-State should follow the same content as required in the state competitions. Note: Appendices should be included only when they support the findings, statements and observations in the plan. Because of the number of teams/plans entering the competition, reviewers and judges may not be able to read all of the material in the appendices. Therefore, the text portion of the plan (30-page maximum) must contain all pertinent information in a clear and concise manner. The Cover Page and Table of Contents are not counted as part of the 30-page maximum.


Judges will use the following criteria when reviewing the written business plans:

  1.  Overall Organization (10 Points): Materials are presented in clear, logical order, and/or  sequence.
  2.  Interdisciplinary Team (5 Points): Team member(s) are enrolled in majors in more than one  college in the university.
  3.  Ability to Engage Judges (10 Points): The pace and content of the presentation is appropriate  for an investment audience, the judges’ questions are answered clearly and concisely.
  4.  Quality of Written Plan (15 Points): Written and oral presentations are consistent. Written plan  supports assertions in the oral presentation. Written plan communicates business concept as a  stand-alone document, and stimulates potential investor attention.
  5.  Quality of Visual Aids (10 Points): Clear, interesting visual aids that help explain the business  ideas and concepts. Teams may bring prototypes of products, but no food, drink, or promotional  giveaways may be given to the judges.
  6.  Market Opportunity (10 Points): Clear market need presented, as well as a way to take  advantage of that need. Meaningful examples and practical applications.
  7.  Distinctive Competence (10 Points): The company provides something novel and/or unique  that gives it a competitive advantage.
  8.  Management Capability (10 Points): The team can effectively develop this company and  handle the risks associated with the venture.
  9.  Financial Understanding (10 Points): The team has a solid understanding of the financial  requirements of the business.
  10.  Investment Potential (10 Points): The business represents an investment opportunity in which  one would consider investing.

ORAL PRESENTATIONS (Wednesday, May 31)

Each team will present their business plan to a five-member panel of judges in 55-minute blocks. Teams are given 20 minutes for the actual presentation, followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session with the judges. There will then be a 10-minute information feedback opportunity with judges, who will use this time to give advice and direction, plus share any experiences they may have relating to the business plan. Teams will have five minutes before their presentation for setup/preparation and five minutes after the presentation for equipment dismantling.


Equipment provided in presentation rooms will be:

  •  Podium (team laptops are connected at the podium only)
  •  Projector with VGA and HDMI connection (audio cable included with speakers)
  •  Large projection screen

Hard-wire Internet connections will be available, connected at the podium. Wi-Fi will also be available in the presentation rooms.

Laptop converters, as well as pointers and wireless presentation mice will not be provided.

You may use your own laptop, but compatibility between personal laptops and/or converters with the equipment provided in the presentation rooms is not guaranteed. Teams are required to connect their own laptops, and will need to bring their own converters for any operating systems that are not Windows based.

If teams want laptops provided for their presentations, please email before May 24.

Videos, sound clips, fonts, etc., are not guaranteed to work or display at full capacity.


Teams will be judged on the following criteria during their presentations at Tri-State:

  • Overall Organization (10 points maximum) | Materials presented in clear, logical order, and/or sequence.
  • Interdisciplinary Team (5 points maximum) | Team member(s) enrolled in majors in more than one college in the university.
  • Ability to Engage Judges (10 points maximum) | The pace and content of the presentation is appropriate for an investment audience, the judges questions are answered clearly and concisely.
  • Quality of Written Plan (15 points maximum) | Written and oral presentations are consistent. Written plan supports assertions in the oral presentation. Written plan communicates business concept as a stand-alone document, and stimulates potential investor attention.
  • Quality of Visual Aids (10 points maximum) | Clear, interesting visual aids that help explain the business ideas and concepts. Teams may bring sample products, but no food, drink, or promotional giveaways can be given to the judges.
  • Market Opportunity (10 points maximum) | Clear market need presented, as well as a way to take advantage of that need. Meaningful examples and practical applications.
  • Distinctive Competence (10 points maximum) | The company provides something novel and/or unique that gives it a competitive advantage.
  • Management Capability (10 points maximum) | The team can effectively develop this company and handle the risks associated with the venture.
  • Financial Understanding (10 points maximum) | The team has a solid understanding of the financial requirements of the business.
  • Investment Potential (10 points maximum) | The business represents an investment opportunity in which one would consider investing.



Pitch your business idea in 90 seconds and win $2,000!

One member from each team competing in the 2017 Donald W Reynolds Tri-State Competition will make a 90-second elevator pitch on their business plan during the awards dinner May 31 at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

The designated team member will be called to the stage and will have 90 seconds to introduce himself/herself by name and then pitch the plan. Team members cannot use note cards or other props to assist them with their pitches.

The time limit is strict, and team members will be stopped immediately at the 90-second mark, regardless of where he or she is in the pitch. Therefore, it is important elevator pitch competitors prepare a concise, timed summary of the business idea.

At the conclusion of the presentations, judges will score the presentations. One winner from both the Undergraduate and the Graduate division will be announced at the awards dinner and receive a $2,000 cash prize to be spent at their teams discretion. All winners are at the sole discretion of the judges and their decisions are final.

What an “Elevator Pitch” is: An Elevator Pitch is an extremely concise presentation of an entrepreneur’s idea, business model, company solution, marketing strategy, and competition delivered to potential investors. It should not last more than 90 seconds, or the duration of an elevator ride.

What an “Elevator Pitch” is not: It is not a “sales pitch.” Don’t get caught up in using the entire pitch to tell the Investor how great your product or service is. The Investor is “buying” the business, not the product. It should not exceed 90 seconds in length.


Criteria your Elevator Pitch might address include:


Who are you? Did you identify your name, personal role, position, or title in venture? Did you state the company’s name?


What need is your product or service offering a solution to? Briefly describe what it is you sell without the non technical details. Explain the problem your customer’s face and how this solves their problems.


Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. What industry is it? How large of a market do they represent?


More simply, how do you expect to make money? Do you sell the product to wholesalers for a flat fee? Do you charge a subscription? Do you split revenues with a partner?


“Bet on the jockey, not the horse” is a familiar saying among Investors. Tell them a little about you and your team’s background and achievements. If you have a strong advisory board, tell them who they are and what they have accomplished.


Don’t have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition is an advantage-they are proof your business model and/or concept work.


Simply being in an industry with successful competitors is not enough. You need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over the competition. A better distribution channel? Key partners? Proprietary technology?


What are you seeking? What are you looking for from the investor? How much money you need and what it will let you do?


Learn more about how Donald W. Reynolds created a legacy of charitable giving through his contributions to entrepreneurship.



They’re already big cash winners in their states — what awards are next at Tri-State?



View the names and business ideas of teams that have previously left the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Awards victorious.