End of semester business competitions at SNU


Winners, judges and faculty of the February 27 Haldan-Pascotto Pitch Competition at SNU. The teams only had three minutes to present their business ideas to a panel of judges.

Gabby Dodd, Managing Editor

Throughout the school year, Sierra Nevada University offers many business competitions that students across all majors can participate in with cash prizes available to the winners. Many students have recently walked away with prize money this semester, and there are still more competitions coming up.

SNU Provost Shannon Beets said in an email to all undergraduate students that due to COVID-19, “all academic student events for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester will not occur in a face-to-face format.” SNU will notify students about how to move forward with the end of year events when more information is available.

On Feb. 27, 11 teams battled for a $500 1st place prize at the 5th annual Haldan-Pascotto Pitch Competition. The students only had three minutes to present their business plans in front of a panel of five judges who have backgrounds as CEOs of companies, founded a business, are current investors, or trustees of the university.

Joao Mendes took the first-place prize for his business Green Express, which is an organic fast-food company that uses local farmers and suppliers while still keeping food convenient and low-priced.

“I didn’t think I was going to win,” Mendes said. “Right now I’m probably just going to save it [the prize money] and probably participate in the business plan competition as well, I’m just happy right now, not a lot of words.”

Vanessa Visnovits and her partner Dunham Lockhart took second and walked away with $300 for their business, Spacess, which is a counseling app featuring fully licensed psychologists so people can get the mental help they need without ever leaving home.

Austin Thomas and Monique Hurdle took third and $200 for their financial planning app, Curency, which is aimed at helping millennials and Gen Z and features a free consultation.

Other contestants pitched ideas for biodegradable hair-ties to help eliminate plastic use, sleeping bags with built-in mattresses, smoothies and juices delivered to your doorstep, a ski resort photography company, as well as other apps, services, and websites.

“This competition allowed me to progress my idea further and think about things that I wouldn’t have thought about on my own because they [the judges] were constantly asking me questions and pushing me to dig deeper into my own business,” Maea Wistrom said.

On March 26, students will compete in the Preger Prize Creative Idea Challenge which will be held from 6-9 p.m. in TCES 139. The first-place winner may receive up to $5,000 and $2,000 for runners-up.

Students who participate will create and present a business model canvas poster and executive summary. Contestants are required to have an original idea that has a plan to be implemented. Submissions for the competition ended March 8.

According to an SNU press release, the competition was endowed by Robert Preger who spent 25 years in the software industry and has lived in Incline Village since 1987. Preger has been on the board of trustees at SNU for over 10 years.

The Haldan-Pascotto President’s Cup Business Plan Competition, which was formerly known as the Trepp Competition, will be held on April 20 from 6-9 p.m. in TCES 139. Students are encouraged to challenge the status quo, using creativity to find solutions to real issues. The top three winners will receive $6,000 in combined prizes.

Students who participate in the competition will have to create a 40- to 60-page business plan and have only five minutes to present their ideas to a panel of judges.

The business plan competitions are renamed each year to honor different members of the community.

The last event of the semester will be held the day after the Business Plan Competition, on April 21 from 6-9 pm in TCES 139. Students will be competing for $500 at the 7th annual Ski Business Resort Management Master Plan Competition.

Teams are currently working on creating their ski resorts. Each team is given a theoretical budget of $110 million to build the resort which includes everything from lifts, roads, lodging, snowmaking systems, and more.

“There’s only going to be three competing resorts, so it’s going to be pretty interesting,” Dominic Antonucci, who is participating in the competition said. “I know all of us have a pretty good background in skiing, so it’s going to be a fun competition.”

Each team chooses the mountain to build the resort based on real geographical locations in the United States and must take into account pitches and which way the mountain faces as well keeping track of the costs for an official budget.

Owen Greene, Sam McChesney, and Cole Lyon are working as a team and have already found a location for their resort by Twin Lakes which is a little over an hour outside of Mammoth Mountain, near the small town of Bridgeport.

“We have a lot of runs mapped out almost and it’s going to be pretty sweet to look at the pitch and the run and which way it curves and build out a little terrain park,” Greene said.

All events are free to attend. Any questions about the upcoming competitions should be directed to SNU business chair, Justin Spees. [email protected] 775.241.3818.