Published on March 23, 2011 by Kara Kennedy  

Samford University’s Brock School of Business students and alumni will have the opportunity to participate in the third annual business plan competition, Regions New Venture Challenge.

Since 2009 Regions Bank has supported the program with both in-kind donations and financial contributions.  Regions will host the students and business leaders at the company’s Birmingham headquarters April 19 for the final round of the competition.

Undergraduates, graduate students and recent Samford alumni are encouraged to submit plans for the competition. The teams with the winning business plans receive seed capital provided by Regions Bank to help fund their news business ventures. The deadline for submission is April 1.

“At Regions we are proud to support the Brock School of Business and programs that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Bill Horton, North Central Alabama area president for Regions Bank. “Through the Regions New Venture Challenge our bankers have the opportunity to work with many aspiring entrepreneurs and see their ideas grow from plans on paper to thriving local businesses. We are excited to sponsor this event for the third year and look forward to hosting the final round of the competition.”

Franz Lohrke, chairman of the business school's entrepreneurship department, said that the competition was started to encourage students to start their own businesses.  He said that universities can’t really teach someone to be an entrepreneur, but the faculty in the Brock School had designed the program to help remove roadblocks that students face when starting their own businesses.

The competition gives students a hands-on experience to hone skills that they learn in a classroom. Lohrke said that the competition has been a success because several winners have started companies including Revolve Fitness in Ross Bridge and Homewood Pharmacy on Oxmoor Road.

There are two divisions for students to enter: the BUSA 100 Division is open to freshmen enrolled in the World of Business course in spring 2011 whereas the Open Division is for other interested Samford undergraduates, graduate students, and recent alumni.

“We actually have a division in the competition dedicated to our freshmen business students, which is unique to the Brock School’s entrepreneurship program,” said Lohrke.  In addition, he noted that in previous years, students have had the opportunity to present their plans to top mangers from companies including Regions Financial Corporation, Dreamland BBQ,  O’Henry’s Coffee, Daxko and Creative Concepts.

"Students at other universities rarely have the opportunity to present and receive feedback on their business ideas from such a distinguished group of business leaders, particularly during their freshman year," said Lohrke.  “In fact, most universities make students wait till their junior year to even begin taking entrepreneurship coursework.  Our students can start during their first year in college in their first business class.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.