Gillespie Business Plan Rules

Gillespie Business Plan Competition Rules

Timeline, Rules and Resources

The annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition, organized by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is designed to foster entrepreneurship by encouraging students in the Ole Miss community to develop their business ideas. Over the years, many innovative Ole Miss students gained their entrepreneurial start and subsequently launched successful companies from the Ole Miss Business Plan Competition. Competitors receive invaluable mentoring from entrepreneurial leaders throughout the Business Plan Competition. On pitch day, winning teams will split a total of $35,000 in scholarships, prizes and support.

Prizes and Prize Categories (Subject to change)

Best Business Plan

Judges will be looking for the most innovative business ideas with the highest chance of success. Students will be judged on the competitiveness of their business description, the market opportunity, market size, innovation and feasibility of the technology/product/service, competitive advantage, the business model, the management structure, the financial highlights (path to revenue, time to break even, etc.) and potential use of proceeds.

  • 1st Place: 
    • $10,000 – Distributed in two tranches, delivered as a check to your incorporated company
    • Space at Insight Park
      • The incubator within the Innovation Hub at Insight Park provides services, programs and 12,000 square feet of Class A office space to enhance the start-up, survival and growth rates of businesses. Innovation Hub at Insight Park is pleased to announce that they will award shared office space for one year to the winner of the Gillespie Business Plan competition as long as they meet admission criteria for the incubator. This prize is valued at $3,600.
  • 2nd Place: $5,000 – Delivered as a check to your incorporated company
  • FOUR Runner up Prizes: $1,000 – Deposited in the bursar account of the team lead or shared among team members
  • Thomas W. Colbert-Community Bank Innovation Award: A $5,000 prize to recognize an outstanding venture driven by innovation in a product/process/service or development of a technological change.
  • Lynn and Ron Samuels Student Entrepreneur Award: A $5,000 prize to a student entrepreneur venture team who exemplifies entrepreneurial spirit through a venture driven by innovation in a product, process, or service.
  • Stephen E. Rowell Entrepreneur Award: A $5,000 prize awarded to a student entrepreneur venture team or individual, who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit through a venture driven by innovation in a product, process or service.

Contest Rules

Brief Disclaimer.

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship recognizes that no set of rules, no matter how thorough or carefully developed, can ever cover all circumstances. Accordingly, all teams are expected to abide by the specific rules enumerated below as well as the overall spirit of the Business Plan Competition. The directors reserve the right to disqualify any team that violates the rules, regulations or the spirit of the Business Plan Competition. These rules may be changed by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at any time and without notice.


Each entry must have at least one current full-time Ole Miss undergraduate or graduate student who is playing a responsible role in creating and managing the venture in the semester during which the competition is held. The student should own or would own equity equal to or greater than 20% upon the venture’s establishment. A valid student ID and student ID number will be required to participate. Teams are encouraged to seek the involvement of faculty, alumni, post-docs, researchers, and staff in addition to the student participant. If invited to the Business Plan Competition finals, only students may give the oral presentation of the Business Plan and answer questions from judges. An objective of these rules is to prevent non-student ventures from merely adding a student to circumvent this requirement. Entrants who have won prizes/awards in the competition in previous years must submit a completely new business idea to be eligible.

  • Students who have won any prize or award money at prior Gillespie Business Plan competitions cannot enter the same business idea in the current competition.


The judging panel will consist of entrepreneurs, business executives, faculty members, venture capitalists, investors, or any others deemed fit by the organizers. Participants will be judged on the quality of their executive summary, business plan, oral presentation, and the viability of their venture. The decision of the judging panel is final.


Entrants must register upon submission certifying that the entry is their own work, an original business plan or concept, and that they have fulfilled the requirements and abided by all rules of the Business Plan Competition. Students may compete as individuals or as teams of up to five people. No person can enter more than one Business Plan or compete on more than one team.

Prizes. Prizes are awarded via the foundation. For a team to receive their prize money, they will need to be an incorporated entity and be an approved vendor for the university. We can help you with this process. Prizes will only be paid out to a legal entity.

The winner’s prize will be paid in an initial tranche to the legal entity and a follow-on tranche will follow 3 or 4 months after proved the student team has progressed according to milestones proposed by the judges and finalized by the CIE. There will be no substitutions for prizes. The prizes are not transferable. It is entrant’s sole responsibility to notify The School of Business Administration of any change in entrant’s contact information.

Disclosure and Ownership of Technologies and Materials. All contestants own the rights to their ideas. Submission of an idea to the Business Plan Competition should be considered as the public disclosure of the idea. Organizers and sponsors of the Business Plan Competition, staff, judges, audience members, etc. will not be asked to sign any non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements. If a contestant is concerned whether or not they should go public with their idea, they should consider consulting with a lawyer prior to entering the Business Plan Competition. The judging/presentation will be conducted in a meeting with attendance open to the general public. Any data or information discussed or divulged in public sessions by entrants should be considered information that will likely enter the public realm, and entrants should not assume any right of confidentiality in any data or information discussed, divulged or presented in these sessions.

Publishing and Promotion. Once materials are submitted, the University of Mississippi and The School Of Business Administration reserve the right to publish information about the contestants’ work in publications and to release information to the media which may include radio, television, and the Internet.

Miscellaneous. By participating in the Business Plan Competition entrants release the University of Mississippi, The School of Business Administration, Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and the stockholders, employees, officers, directors, and agents of any of the above organizations from any and all liability for claims, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind caused by participation in the Business Plan Competition. Where legal, by accepting a prize the winner grants The School of Business Administration the permission to use his/her name, address, likeness, photograph, Business Plan Competition submission, and statements in advertising and for other promotional or publicity purposes without further compensation.

By submitting your entry you represent and warrant to The School of Business Administration and the prize sponsors that your entry submission: (i) is your own original work and that you have the sole right to submit it to the Business Plan Contest, (ii) does not violate in any way the rights of any third parties including, but not limited to, copyright and other intellectual property rights, and (iii) does not violate any applicable laws. In the event that you breach any of your representations, warranties or undertakings contained herein, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless The School of Business Administration and the prize sponsors from and against any and all damages, costs, expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees), and claims of any kind or nature which are incurred by The School of Business Administration and any prize sponsor as a result of your breach.

Your entry to the Business Plan Contest should not include any content whatsoever which would reasonably be understood to be defamatory, threatening, distasteful, racist, unlawful or otherwise objectionable to any person. The School of Business Administration reserves the right not to accept entries that are considered inappropriate for the Business Plan Competition.

Further Instructions. Additional requirements and submission guidelines for the Business Plan Competition may be provided during the Business Plan Competition as necessary.

Additional Business Plan Resources:

We encourage you to utilize some of the great entrepreneurial resources available to you via local government and non-profit organizations. Below are resources that will aid you in writing a full business plan and in delivering an investor pitch.


Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Resources for starting a business

The Lean Start-up Principles

SCORE: Business Plans & Financial Statements Template Gallery

Bplans: Business plan writing tips and samples

Small Business Administration Business Plan Resources



(Updated April 27, 2020)

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