Two University of Wisconsin Eau Claire students received the award for Best Written Business Plan at the first annual Young Entrepreneurs' Conference held April 29-30 at UW-River Falls.
Funded by a grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation, the conference was established to give industrious students and budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to take part in a business plan competition, share ideas with leading business executives and entrepreneurs, and network with business-minded individuals from all over Wisconsin. Awards were presented for the best poster, best written business plan, best business plan presentation and best overall business plan.
Senior Rachel Olson, Eagan, Minn., and senior Andrew Mullvain, Rice Lake, won first prize for their written business plan for Avella Nets, LLC, which was formed to produce and distribute the first fishing net designed specifically for ice fishing. The product was developed by three of Mullvain's friends from Rice Lake — Nicholas Passint, Bryan Wilson and Joseph Cessna — for an engineering class project at UW-Madison. Mullvain said that when he heard about their invention, he knew it would be a perfect project to develop for the UW-Eau Claire Entrepreneur Program.
"We had a lot of fun and have worked very hard to turn this concept into a viable business plan. Rachel has put together an amazing marketing package of sales materials that we hope to begin distributing very soon," said Mullvain, noting that he and Olson are grateful to both the Entrepreneur program faculty and their fellow students for all the great ideas they were exposed to in the class.
Olson and Mullvain, who are management majors, competed against a dozen other teams from various UW campuses in the conference. The students all presented their plans to a panel of judges and were presented awards Saturday afternoon at the closing ceremony. Olson and Mullvain were both presented with a trophy, as well as a cash award to be used to help offset the printing costs for their plan.
"In addition to winning in the best written plan category, Andrew and Rachel gave a wonderful and very professional presentation of their idea," said Ray Hughes, a lecturer in the College of Business.
"The conference itself was a great experience because it allowed us to pitch our idea to many different people coming from different perspectives," said Mullvain. "We received a lot of positive feedback as well as needed constructive criticism."
Mullvain said the next step for the pair is to put their plan into action soon after graduation.