It’s decade two for the Arkansas Governor’s Cup! 

Current Arkansas college and university students who want to explore a business idea or simply learn more about entrepreneurship are invited to compete in the 20th annual Governor’s Cup competition! The all-cash prize pool for 2020 is $154,000, making the Governor’s Cup one of the richest events in the national collegiate business plan competition circuit.

Teams are not required to start their businesses to compete. The Governor’s Cup is designed to increase student appreciation for the challenges that come with developing a viable business offering. Through a real-world and rigorous competitive process, the Governor’s Cup recognizes those students best able to articulate a plan that addresses these challenges. Competitors learn about the new venture creation process through their team’s efforts, their work with faculty, and the development of written plans and oral presentations to judges.

Arkansas Capital Corporation is proud to have championed 20 years of big ideas from college students in its management of the Governor’s Cup in partnership with sponsors who have invested $2.47 million into the competition since 2001. For questions, contact Arkansas Capital at 501-374-9247, or email


  • To take a chance at winning part of that $154,000 cash prize pool;
  • Get a hands-on, real-world experience about new venture creation that builds up their appreciation for the challenges that come with developing a viable business product or service;
  • Build up those important writing and presentation skills;
  • Receive impactful and meaningful feedback from notable judges;
  • Discover that Arkansas is a great place to grow, innovate, and live;
  • Network with entrepreneurs, investors and lenders;
  • Get media exposure; and,
  • Save money – there’s no cost to enter!

In addition to that real-world experience, the Governor’s Cup is also about personal and career development. Regardless of whether or not they were winners, past competitors say they learned quite a bit about themselves. They discovered personal strengths in problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, time management, team building, and more of the valuable soft skills critical to their success after graduation.

For colleges and universities, the Governor’s Cup is an opportunity for them to engage students in exploring promising ideas and technologies coming from their campuses for potential commercialization. Plus, their winners bring home a very cool and heavy crystal trophy that is an eye-catching addition to their trophy cases!

2020 DATES

January 17
Registration Open on YouNoodle
February 16
Business Plans Due
February 28 (end of day)
Announcement of Semi-Finalists
and Finalists (watch this page)
March 19-20
Oral Presentations
Little Rock Regional Chamber
April 9
20th Annual Awards Luncheon
Little Rock


The Governor’s Cup has two rounds:

Round 1: Team application, written business plan submitted, judging, and selection of semi-finalists and finalists.

Round 2: Semi-finalist and finalist oral presentations with business plan and PowerPoint; selection of winners.

Winners will be announced at the Governor’s Cup Awards Luncheon Thursday, April 9.


January 17
Team application window opens in YouNoodle

February 16
Deadline for completed team applications and business plan uploads

February 17
Round 1 judging begins

February 27-28
Round 1 judges meet to select semi-finalists and finalists for Round 2

February 28 (by 5:00 p.m.)
Round 2 semi-finalists and finalists announced at

March 8
Semi-finalist and finalist business plans and other required documents due in YouNoodle (see the “Oral Presentations” tab for details)

March 9                          
Semi-finalist and finalist business plans forwarded to Round 2 judges

March 17                         
Semi-finalist and finalist backup PowerPoint presentations due to ACC

March 19                           
Undergraduate Division semi-finalist presentations, Little Rock Regional Chamber

Team Reception, announcement of Undergraduate Division finalists; The Venture Center, Little Rock

March 20
Round 2 finalist presentations, Little Rock Regional Chamber

April 9
Annual Governor’s Cup Awards Luncheon; Wally Allen Ballroom, Statehouse Convention Center; Little Rock


    1. Arkansas Capital Corporation (ACC) is responsible for the management and operation of the Arkansas Governor’s Cup.

The competition is designed to increase college and university student appreciation for the challenges associated with developing a viable business offering (product or service) while, through an iterative process, recognizing those students best able to articulate a plan that addresses these challenges.

Not every circumstance can be anticipated during the course of the competition. ACC reserves the right to disqualify any team that violates the rules and guidelines of the competition.

ACC also reserves the right to disqualify teams that engage in illegal, unethical, harmful, or any other behavior and activities it deems as unworthy of association with the Governor’s Cup.

All decisions made by ACC are final.


    1. The Arkansas Governor’s Cup is open to any full- or part-time, certificate- or degree-seeking student currently enrolled at any of Arkansas’s accredited not-for-profit two- or four-year public, private, or independent colleges and universities.
    1. Current enrollment is defined as enrollment in a certificate- or degree-seeking program of study during the summer/fall 2019, and/or 2020 spring semesters.
    1. If one team member is/was enrolled in a graduate or post-graduate degree program during these semesters, the team must compete in the graduate division.
    1. Students who graduated with a certificate or degree during the 2019 summer/fall semesters are eligible to compete.
    1. If one team member earned a graduate or post-graduate degree during these semesters, the team must compete in the graduate division.

Team Composition, Team Leader, and Advisor/s:                                                                                 

    1. Teams may be composed of
      • graduate and undergraduate students;
      • students from any academic discipline – agriculture, business, education, engineering, health, science, tourism, etc.; team members may represent a mix of these disciplines;
      • students from more than one college and/or university.
    1. Teams may include non-student members. However, these individuals cannot make up the majority of the team and cannot take part in any team presentations.
    1. Team size is limited to a maximum of six students.
    1. Students cannot compete on more than one team.
    1. Teams cannot enter more than one business plan into the competition.
    1. Students must have majority ownership of the business venture and serve in “C-Level” roles on the management team (i.e., CEO, COO, CFO, CPO, etc.). The management team outlined in the plan must include the names of individuals (if any) who are not associated with the college or university.
    1. The student management team and other individuals (if applicable) must own at least 30 percent of the total equity in the business venture, if allocated.
    1. Each team must designate one student member as the team leader.
    1. Each team must have at least one faculty member as its advisor. If the advisor is not a faculty member, the team will need to give a brief statement in its application regarding why a non faculty member is the advisor.
    1. Teams may have two advisors.
    1. The team leader and one advisor are to be the only points of contact between the team and Governor’s Cup management throughout all phases of the competition.
    1. The team leader is responsible for creating and managing the team’s application and subsequent uploads in the competition database. Managing includes ensuring data entry and required uploads are correct and complete, instructions are followed, and deadlines are met.
    1. The advisor’s role is to mentor the team leader and team members during all phases of the competition. Advisors cannot be part of the team video or presentations.
    1. The team leader and advisor are required to affirm eligibility of each team member. Affirmation will include:
      • verification in the application that team members are full- or part-time students currently enrolled in a certificate- or degree-seeking program of study during the eligible semesters; and,
      • verification in the application of each team member’s level of completion as of the business plan submission date (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, recently graduated, graduate or post-graduate student).

ACC has the right to request further information to determine validity of enrollment and to make determinations accordingly.

ACC’s determinations are final.

Business Idea:                                                                                                                           

    1. The business idea must be for a new and independent venture in the seed, start-up, or early-growth stages.
    1. Teams may compete with an idea that is student-generated or one that originated from another individual or entity. Teams may also compete with an idea based on a technology, product, or service that has been licensed from another company, private inventor, or other source.

Teams must provide written and signed approval from these individuals or entities on professional letterhead. Teams will be required to upload this document with their business plan in Round 1.

    1. Ventures that include proposals for buy-outs and/or expansions of existing companies, roll-ups, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution outside of Arkansas, spin-outs from existing corporations, and other consulting projects or analyses are not eligible.
    1. 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 2019-2020 academic year may be disqualified. This includes business plans that were submitted in previous Governor’s Cup competitions.
    1. 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.
    1. Revenue streams from the business should not be based solely on deriving revenues from the licensing of its own technologies.
    1. The work of the team may be under faculty supervision for credit in a regularly scheduled course or as an independent study. Their work may also be prepared under faculty supervision with no official credit.
    1. 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.

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 business plan.

By submitting a plan into the competition, the team automatically affirms this requirement. Teams submitting business plans with any plagiarized and/or fabricated information may be disqualified.


    1. 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.
    1. Teams are solely responsible for protection of intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc., for their concepts.
    1. By entering the Governor’s Cup, teams understand their idea has been publicly disclosed. ACC will not ask judges, reviewers, sponsors, staff, audience members, or any other individuals involved with the Governor’s Cup to sign non-disclosure or confidentiality statements.
    1. Teams agree that neither ACC and its affiliates, nor members of the judging panels, nor sponsors and their designated organizations, assume any liability for any disclosures of any information related to their submissions; 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 during the course of the competition.


    1. Governor’s Cup competitors agree to allow ACC, its affiliates, and other designated organizations 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.
    1. Competitors also agree that ACC, its affiliates, and other designated organizations may use videos, photos, transcripts, and/or recording(s) (in whole or part) for publicity and marketing purposes as their organizations may see fit, including those which may result in remuneration.

Rules Violations                                                                                                                           

For matters related to possible rules violations, inquiries must be submitted in writing to ACC and must include:

    • the name of the team alleging the violation,
    • the name/s of the team/s allegedly committing the violation,
    • the rule/s purported to have been violated,
    • supporting evidence that the rule/s have been violated.

Inquiries will be forwarded to the executive management team of ACC. ACC management will determine if rules have been violated, as well as if and how a team and/or team member/s should be penalized or disqualified. The decision of ACC management is final.

Questions / Assistance:                                                                                                                           
Please contact Marie Bruno at Arkansas Capital Corporation. Phone: 501-374-9247; email:



The business plan is limited to a maximum of 12 pages plus a maximum of 6 pages for appendices.

A Cover Page and Table of Contents are also required, but do not count toward the business plan page limit.

Plans with fewer than 6 pages of appendices may not use the extra pages to increase the length of their business plan beyond the 12-page limit. Teams that submit plans less than the 12-page limit may not use those extra pages for appendices.

Appendices may be used to support findings noted in the plan and for more details on financials.


    • The font must be Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman. This requirement does not apply to text for the Cover Page or to headings or descriptions in the plan that accompany pictures, graphics, or worksheets.
    • The font must be 12 point.
    • Page margins must be one inch on all sides.
    • Line spacing must be 1.5.
    • Pages must be numbered.

Contents – Please prepare the plan in the following order:                                                                 

Cover Page – provide:

      • the name of the business venture;
      • the name of the team leader;
      • the name/s of team members; and,
      • the name/s of advisors

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
    • Provide a one-sentence description of the venture’s product or service.
    • Summarize why your product or service will be better than what currently exists in the marketplace, specifying key benefits and target markets.
    • Conclude with a general summary of your company’s goals for the next three years.
  2. Problem
    • What is the need / problem in the marketplace?
    • Have there been prior approaches to solving this need/problem? Explain. If yes, what were their shortcomings?
  3. Solution
    • Describe the product or service that is your solution.
    • What are the key features and benefits?
    • What is its current stage of development?
    • What is the unique value proposition for the customer?
  4. Customers and Validation of Business Idea and Venture
    • Who are your customers? Give specifics re: demographics, income levels, etc.
    • What assumptions were made leading the team to conclude there is market acceptance for your product or service and that you will generate revenue?
    • What activities (interviews, surveys, presentations, prototyping, tests, etc.) did your team conduct with potential customers to validate these assumptions?
    • Were your assumptions on target based on the results and feedback from these activities?
      • If yes, explain.
      • If no, how did your team pivot? What strategies were changed and why?
    • What did you learn from this validation process?
  5. Go to Market Strategies
    • Addresses the research and development, production, marketing, and personnel needed to execute the venture.
    • How will you make and/or deliver the product or service?
    • How will you promote and market your product or service?
    • Who will be your key partners?
  6. Management Team
    • List the student team members, the “C-Suite” positions they will hold in the company, and provide a brief background on each.
    • Explain why this team is the right team to execute the venture.
  7. Revenue
    • What are your sources of revenue?
    • How do you anticipate generating enough revenue and profits to create a sustainable and scalable venture?
  8. Competitive Environment
    • Who are your competitors?
    • What is your venture’s competitive advantage?
  9. Critical Risks
    • What are major internal and external risks that could threaten the venture?
    • What viable contingencies does the team have to address these risks?
  10. Funds Required
    • Provide a statement including the amount and type of capital needed, when it is needed, and how it will be used.
  11. Pro-Forma Financials – Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement:
    • Provide monthly projections for the first year and annual projections for years two and three for each document.


Creation and management of team applications and Round 1 judging are conducted electronically through YouNoodle.

As stated in Rule 18, only the team leader can create and manage the team’s YouNoodle account and application. Rule 18 also requires team leaders to provide account access to one team advisor.

YouNoodle is a third party website. Team leaders should read its Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. When using YouNoodle, teams are agreeing to YouNoodle’s terms.

Team leaders: Please ensure the email account/address you use to set up this account will accept emails from or from any other address. YouNoodle auto-generates emails regarding the status of your activity in your account each time you make an update.

Creating the team’s account:

Go to: Because the Governor’s Cup is exclusive to Arkansas college and university students, this exact link is the only path to account setup.

At this page, follow the prompts to create the account. When done, click “Save,” then click “Next.”

You’ll be taken to the next window, “Team Management.” This is where you will add ONLY your advisor as the other administrator for the team account. Please ensure his/her email account will also accept emails from any address.

Follow the prompts to add the adviser. If the adviser has an existing account in You Noodle from past competitions, be sure to use the same email address he/she used to create the account.

The advisor will receive an email from YouNoodle with the invitation to join the team’s account.

He/she needs to open the email and click on the provided link to either log in or create an account.

Once logged in, he/she will see a yellow flag “1” in “Notifications” under “Dashboard” in the left hand panel on the screen and they will click on that notification. In the next window, he/she will see an “Accept” button. When clicked, he/she will be taken to the team’s application page and will have access to all information.

The advisor must accept the invitation to the account before the team’s application can be submitted.

Team application:

After setting up the team account, you’ll be directed to a new window with a box titled, “Create A New Application”.

Click and begin filling out the form as prompted, starting with the team’s business name.

Virtually all data fields in the application are tagged as required answers. At the time you start the application, if you have incomplete or unknown information, it’s ok to leave those fields blank. You will be able to update your application all the way up to the business plan submission deadline.

Click “Submit Application” when finished to save your data.

All applications are considered incomplete until the business plan is uploaded. You can access your team’s application anytime at Once logged in, click on “Dashboard” in the menu on the left. In the next window, you’ll see a large button to click to get into the team application.

Once in, look for the “Edit” button on the right and click to make changes. Depending on where you are in the application, you may have to click “Unsubmit Application” to make edits – this is fine.

When you are finished with edits, click “Submit Application.”

Each time you update your application and submit it, you will receive an email message from YouNoodle regarding your application status.

All team information in the application must be complete and current at the time the business plan is uploaded (deadline 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 16).

Uploading the business plan:

Teams will upload their plans in the “Business Plan Submission” section of their applications.

Plans must be submitted in PDF with the file name of the startup only. For example, “startupname.pdf”.


For 2020, judges will pre-select teams from the overall undergraduate and graduate division entries to compete for the Arkansas Farm Bureau Agriculture Division and the Innovate Arkansas Innovation Division awards.

There is an additional $10,000 cash prize for each of these divisions; $5,000 will be awarded to the Agriculture and Innovation graduate team winner and $5,000 will go to the Agriculture and Innovation undergraduate team winner.

If only three teams are selected to compete in either one or both divisions, there will be a first place cash prize award of $5,000 with $3,000 awarded to the second place team.

Criteria for Selection of Agriculture and Innovation Division Finalists:

Judges will decide finalists based on the information provided by teams in the Executive Summary section.

For the Innovation Division, judges will be looking for how the idea:

  • Improves or replaces business processes to increase efficiency and productivity, or enables the business to extend the range or quality of existing products and/or services;
  • Develops entirely new and improved products and services – often to meet rapidly changing customer or consumer demands or needs;
  • Adds value to existing products, services, or markets to differentiate the business from its competitors and increase the perceived value to customers / target markets;

For the Agriculture Division, judges will be looking for how the innovation division criteria applies to the following:

  • Farms, ranches, greenhouses, managed forests, aquaponics, hydroponics;
  • Input product or crop variety;
  • Method or tool for growing, monitoring, or harvesting crops or livestock;
  • Production support services, such as scouting, equipment repair, fertilizer sales;
  • Methods of production, preparation, packaging, preservation of food/beverage/textile products or ingredients;
  • Value-added processing, including yogurts, cheese, and processed meats; wineries, breweries, cideries, and distilleries;
  • Ways of enhancing sustainability in food production, processing, distribution, or consumption
  • Ways of monitoring, managing, or conserving resources (energy, water, etc.) associated with food production.

Teams invited to compete as Agriculture and Innovation Division finalists will be listed February 28 at along with the posting of the overall undergraduate division semi-finalists and the graduate division finalists.

Oral presentations for semi-finalists and finalists will be March 19 and 20 at the Little Rock Regional Chamber. Agriculture Division teams will present March 19. Innovation Division teams will present March 20. Please see the “Oral Presentations” tab at for more details.


At least 60 judges are recruited each year for the Governor’s Cup from across Arkansas. The judges’ pool includes entrepreneurs and small business owners, venture capitalists, and representatives of the banking, legal, finance, and economic development sectors.

Whether the team’s venture is based on starting a coffee shop or launching a high-tech device, judges are to give equal consideration to teams in all phases of the competition.

Winning teams will be those who convince the judges of the viability of their business idea and venture through well-written and concise business plans and polished, well-organized presentations.

Round 1 – Preliminary – Written Business Plan                                                                                  

At the end of Round 1, judges will have decided the:

  • 12 Undergraduate Division semifinalists;
  • 6 Graduate Division finalists; and,
  • up to six finalists in the Agriculture and Innovation Divisions.

Undergraduate Division: Judges are divided into six groups. Plans are then randomly distributed to a grouping of judges. Judges in each group are assigned the same plans and will evaluate those plans independently via YouNoodle, the online competition database.

A rubric is provided for scoring of the written plans. Judges will award points based on their impressions on how well the team addressed the questions asked of them in the following required sections of the plan:

  • Executive Summary (1-10 points)
  • Problem (1-10 points)
  • Solution (1-10 points)
  • Customers and Validation of Business Idea and Venture (1-10 points)
  • Go to Market Strategies (1-10 points)
  • Management Team (1-10 points)
  • Revenue (1-5 points)
  • Competitive Environment (1-5 points)
  • Critical Risks (1-5 points)
  • Funds Required (1-5 points)
  • Pro-Forma Financials – Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement (1-10 points)
  • Quality of Plan (1-10 points)

Judges are also asked to provide feedback on the strength of the plan and constructive suggestions for improvement.

Following the independent review and scoring period, judges will convene to deliberate and come to a consensus on which two teams in their groups will advance to the Undergraduate Division semi-finals. They are provided with downloads of their individual scores and feedback from their independent review to be used as reference during deliberations.

Graduate Division: The process for evaluation and scoring in this division is the same as the Undergraduate Division, but with a different group of judges.

Agriculture and Innovation Divisions: Competition in these divisions is invitation-only. There is only a final round. Two new groups of judges for each division will independently review (not score) plans and list the teams they would like to see advance to finals. Their decisions will be based on criteria posted at, “Agriculture and Innovation Divisions – Criteria and Selection Process.” These judges also convene after the independent review period to decide as a group which six teams will compete in the finals. There could be three graduate and three undergraduate division teams selected, or a mixture of both.

Round 2 – Semi-Finals and Finals – Oral Presentations                                                                    

At the end of Round 2, judges will have decided the winners of all Governor’s Cup competition divisions.

A new group of judges is recruited for the undergraduate division semi-finals, which will be conducted in two tracks of teams on day 1. Another new group of judges will conduct the final round on day 2.

Judges who participated in the preliminary rounds for the Graduate, Agriculture, and Innovation Divisions will be the same judges for the final round.

Following the semi-finalist and finalist team announcement at, judges are forwarded electronic copies of the plans according to their assigned divisions for review only (no scoring) and for preparation of team questions in advance of oral presentations.

Presentation Content and Rubric:

Teams are to begin their presentations with a brief opening statement that includes an introduction of the members, a description of their venture’s product or service, the pain point it addresses in the marketplace, and a summary of the company’s goals for the next three years.(“Executive Summary” in business plan requirements)

Value (1-15 Points) – The problem and solution statement is clear – the team has identified the unmet need in the marketplace. The team then makes a strong case that their venture addresses the problem, has a distinct competitive advantage, a unique value for customers, and can be sustainable. (“Problem, Solution, Competitive Environment” in business plan requirements)

Validation (1-20 Points) – The team explains the assumptions that led them to believe there will be market acceptance for their product or service and that it would be profitable. The team gives strong evidence that they tested those assumptions with customers through discovery and validation processes. They discuss the milestones achieved during this process to validate market acceptance and profitability. Team members also point out lessons learned, comparing their initial assumptions to what they actually discovered during this validation process. They also identify major internal and external risks they’ve discovered that could threaten the venture and the contingencies they’ve devised to address them. (“Customers and Validation of Business Idea and Venture” and “Critical Risks” in business plan requirements)

Go to Market Strategies and Revenue (1-20 Points) – The team explains the research and development, personnel, key partners (including team members who are not students, if applicable), production, marketing and distribution channels, sales, and other key strategies that need to be implemented. The team also states the anticipated sources and streams of revenue and how they expect to generate enough revenue and profit for a sustainable and scalable venture. (“Go to Market Strategies” and “Revenue” in business plan requirements)

Management Team (1-15 Points) – The venture is led by the student team members. The students tell which executive management (“C-Suite”) positions they hold in the company and why. The team explains why they are the right team to execute the venture. (“Management Team” in business plan requirements)

Funds Required and ProForma Financials (1-15 Points) – The team states the amount/s and type/s of capital needed for the business, when it is needed, and how it will be used.  The team also present and explain their income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement; each will have monthly projections for the first year and annual projections for years two and three.(“Funds Required” and “Pro-Forma Financials” in business plan requirements)

Offering (1-5 Points) – Clearly articulates the proposal/terms to investors; identifies what is being sought from investors; states how much equity will be given up in return for investment capital; presents a realistic assessment of ROI potential; presents an appropriate deal structure and possible exit scenarios. (NEW for oral presentations – this is not required in the written plan.)

Quality of Presentation (1-10 Points) – The team conveys a passion for their venture and is persuasive in convincing the judges their product or service will solve a real problem in the marketplace. Information presented both verbally and visually is organized, realistic, and is also congruent with what is stated in business plan and in other parts of the presentation. 

Judges will be provided scoresheets with this rubric for use as reference during deliberations. One judge in each group will serve as timekeeper and rules manager.

Following the last presentation on days 1 and 2, judge will deliberate and come to a consensus in selecting the winning teams. (Undergraduate Division semifinals judges in both tracks will deliberate and come to a consensus in selecting three teams to advance to the finals on day 2 – six teams total.)

Winners are announced at the April 9 Awards Luncheon.





Learn more about how the Governor’s Cup came to be and the amazing impact it has had on entrepreneurship.
Discover how one of the largest ALL CASH prize pools in the United States is distributed by category and winner.
View the names and business ideas of teams that have previously left the Governor’s Cup victorious.