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Business Venture Competition Ends Virtually March 26, 2020

NMU’s College of Business is pursuing a virtual path around COVID-19 restrictions in order to wrap up its New Business Venture Competition and reward student finalists for the extensive time and effort they’ve invested in their proposals since last fall. The virtual event will take place Thursday, March 26.

“We always highlight our great integration of state-of-the art technology at NMU,” said Dean Carol Johnson. “Situations like COVID-19 enable us to ‘think and act outside the box.’ When we pulled together our technological and human resources—coupled with the desire and commitment of the students, judges and faculty—it was a resounding ‘Yes’ for hosting the event.”

The finalists this year are: Michael Cole, a medicinal plant chemistry major, with his company Cannoptics; and the team of marketing major Max Steele and computer science major Jonathan Damon, with their company OccuDec.

“We are still finalizing the details, but envision a virtual competition in which we use ZOOM to enable the participants to present their business plan to our judges,” Johnson said. “Judges will be able to interact with the students and score their presentations, selecting a winner for that part of the competition. We plan to record this for viewing by various business classes. The competitors will also submit a video of their five-minute ‘Big Pitch,’ which can be viewed by others on MediaSite Live. A crowd favorite award will be awarded based on that video.”

The New Business Venture Competition is an opportunity for NMU students, either individually or in teams of up to 5, to submit their plan for a new business and compete for cash prizes and business counseling services. The competition begins in the fall semester, with students submitting an “intent to compete” form and proposal that outlines a new venture idea.

Selected finalists develop a detailed business plan complete with financial, marketing and production analyses. They typically present those to a judging panel at a trade fair and at a nighttime “Shark Tank”-style event called The Big Pitch in late March. While those on-campus events have been halted by COVID-19, Johnson said the college wanted to find a way for students to wrap up the competition and showcase their hard work.

This is another example of how NMU continues to find ways to adapt in the context of COVID-19. For more information on the competition, visit

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