Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center funding will open up the popular Hawk Tank business plan competition in spring 2019.
Hawk Tank High School will mirror the format of the original competition for current Fort Lewis College students and alumni, but the awards will be scholarships to FLC instead of cash for a startup.
“We’re awarding $47,000 in scholarships and cash awards,” said Michael Valdez, associate professor in the School of Business Administration. “The institution is making a huge investment in this program because we’re committed to helping out our community and our high school students.”
Hawk Tank High School will be more than a daylong competition with significant prizes at stake. The students’ learning experience will be part workshop and mentorship, where they’ll access in-person support from faculty and business professionals and research resources such as the Reed Library patent librarian. SOBA expects the competition to develop students’ entrepreneurial capabilities and spark interest in FLC.
“There may be a lot of entrepreneurial high school students who have an idea, but they don’t know what to do with that. We would love if they got the bug and they wanted to explore that at Fort Lewis,” said Valdez.
Southwestern Colorado high schools are invited to send student teams. SOBA is working with FLC’s American Indian Business Leaders to develop and promote the competition to local high schools, from Aztec and Farmington area high schools, to Bloomfield, Shiprock, Dulce and Newcomb high schools. Faculty and AIBL will do in-person outreach to schools through January. The deadline to declare intent to participate is Feb. 11.
After the intent deadline, teams of up to three students will spend a month crafting a business pitch in collaboration with mentors, FLC alumni or the Beta Alpha Psi honor society. They also will attend workshops.
First-round results will be announced at the end of March and on April 6, and students will find out which plans are tickets to FLC. First-place team members will each receive an $8,000 total scholarship and a $1,000 cash award to split. Second place is a $4,000 individual scholarship and $500 team cash award, and third place is a $2,000 scholarship and $250 team cash award.
“On April 6, it will be awesome to welcome these high school students to SOBA’s annual banquet, which brings together our Hawk Tank winners, business student award recipients, SOBA faculty members, and the business community,” said Steven Elias, dean of the School of Business Administration.
Creating a track to FLC for local high school students feeds into SOBA’s ultimate goal of being the economic hub for the Four Corners region.
“We want to be that epicenter for entrepreneurship and economic development in the entire Four Corners area, and this is just one component of the ecosystem that we’re developing,” said Valdez.
By providing an opportunity to the students, more business ideas come to venture capitalists and financial institutions in the area, entrepreneurial talent is developed locally, and collaboration with community leaders helps keep that talent here.
High school students interested in competing in Hawk Tank can learn more through the High School Hawk Tank link on the Hawk Tank website. The site contains more details about entering the competition, as well as a complete schedule of events, relevant documents, and FLC contact information.