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April 2, 2013

RSU Business Plan Team Advances to Semifinal Round

The Rogers State University business plan team is advancing to the semifinal round. Team members are, front from left: Samantha Slater, Loren LeForce and Whitney Duncan. Back row from left are, Bryce Hall, Dil Patel, Kasey Ng and adviser Charles Atkins.

The Rogers State University business plan team is advancing to the semifinal round. Team members are, front from left: Samantha Slater, Loren LeForce and Whitney Duncan. Back row from left are, Bryce Hall, Dil Patel, Kasey Ng and adviser Charles Atkins.

A Rogers State University business plan team has advanced to the semifinal round of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup, the second straight year that an RSU team has earned that distinction.

The RSU team submitted in early March their written business plan that was reviewed and evaluated by state business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs during the initial round. From there, the team was selected as one of seven teams to advance to the next round in the small business category, which offered students the opportunity to write plans around any business concept, provided the approach was innovative and/or unique.

The RSU team will give their oral presentations on April 12-13 at the Presbyterian Health Foundation Conference Center in Oklahoma City. Also advancing in the category are teams from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, University of Central Oklahoma, East Central University, Northern Oklahoma College, St. Gregory's University and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

Governor Mary Fallin will congratulate the winning teams during a gala Awards Dinner on April 18 at the Bricktown Events Center.

The ninth annual Governor's Cup competition included participation from 48 student teams on 15 campuses across the state in two categories – small business and high-growth. The competition simulates the real-world process of entrepreneurs creating a business plan and making a pitch for start-up funds from potential investors all while competing for more than $150,000 in cash prizes and $15,000 in scholarships provided by the Oklahoma Business Roundtable.

The RSU team is led by Kasey Ng, a marketing sophomore from Miami. Team members are Whitney Duncan, a liberal arts junior from Oologah; Loren LeForce, an accounting junior from Coweta; Bryce Hall, a management sophomore from Salina; Dil Patel, an accounting junior from Claremore; and Samantha Slater, a marketing junior from Oologah. Hall and Ng are members of the President's Leadership Class, while LeForce is a member of the RSU women's soccer team and an Academic All-American.

The team advisor is Charles Atkins, instructor in the RSU School of Business. Atkins previously advised two RSU teams to the Governor's Cup finals in 2008 and 2009, as well as last year's semifinal team.

The RSU team developed a business plan for the J-Pax backpack, which is a patent-pending backpack that eliminates the need for shoulder straps. The pack's design is intended to help users carry more items or weight without additional strain or injury.

The team was introduced to the J-Pax concept through the RSU Innovation Center, which has an ongoing relationship with Edmond entrepreneur Jay Martin who had developed the innovative backpack design. Martin has lectured on campus several times and will be holding his Entrepreneurial Innovation Bootcamp on April 6 at the Innovation Center.

Since beginning work on the project in December, Patel said the students say they have collectively spent more than a thousand hours on developing and refining the business plan.

"It's a lot like forging a sword - you have to keep hammering away at it," said Slater.

LeForce said while the team has spent three hours a week in the class refining the project, they are spending countless hours outside of class working individually and as a team to perfect the plan and the upcoming presentation.

Each of the advancing teams was provided comments from the judges to assist in improving their plan and perfecting their presentations. During the April 12-13 event, they will give a true investor presentation and answer challenging questions from a panel of potential investors and business development professionals who will determine the first, second and third place winners in each division.

Ng, the team leader, said communication has been the key to the team's success.

"We have to bring everything to the table and make sure that we're all agreeing on the direction that we're taking," he said.

Duncan said the experience has been eye-opening for her.

"The biggest thing I've learned is that it takes a huge amount of planning to successfully start a small business," she said. "You can't just go into without planning or refining your strategies, or your business is destined to fail."

Managed by i2E, Inc., the Governor's Cup is underwritten by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, AT&T, the Greater OKC Chamber, OG&E, Oklahoma Business Roundtable, Phillips66, State Regents for Higher Education and many other local partners.

In the history of the Governor's Cup, 1,200 college students from 31 campuses have competed for more than $1.2 Million in cash prizes and $55,000 in Oklahoma Business Roundtable Paulsen Award Scholarships.

For more information on the competition, visit www.i2e.org.