Enterprising students showcase ideas at Burrill business plan contest — April 17

From high-tech flavored plastics and eco-friendly vending machines to micro-gifting services and medical devices for emerging countries, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are pursuing solutions to everyday problems as part of the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition at the Wisconsin School of Business. Thirty students and a record number of 18 teams will present their original business plans on Friday, April 17, in Grainger Hall, 975 University Ave., for a shot at $23,250 in prize money.

To access a complete list of 2009 entries, the schedule of events or to view the live webcast of Friday’s presentations, visit

Eligible entries include both high-technology businesses and ideas for companies where technology doesn’t play a vital role. Interest in “social entrepreneurship” continues to increase with eight teams addressing pressing environmental needs this year.

Sky Vegetables, a company gaining national attention for its efforts to use aquaponics to grow vegetables in greenhouses placed atop grocery stores, got its start with $10,000 in seed money earned from winning top prize in the 2008 G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition, and then placing second in the category of business services in the 2008 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

“Entrepreneurship leads to innovation – it answers questions and provides solutions to real and emerging needs,” says Anne Miner, professor of management and human resources at the Wisconsin School of Business and director of the competition. “Through this annual event, students have the opportunity to come together and create answers to society’s most challenging problems. It is incredibly exciting to see these young minds develop the next generation of innovative ideas that will drive tomorrow’s business.”

Presentations are open to the public and will run from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. in the Plenary Room at Grainger Hall. The competition’s namesake, Steve Burrill, will officially open the event at 7:30 a.m. Burrill will share anecdotes from his entrepreneurial journey and laws of success that contributed to his rise in the biotechnology industry and venture capital.

Prize money will be awarded in a ceremony beginning at 5:45 p.m. by a panel of judges including Scott Button, managing partner of Venture Investors; Lorrie Heinemann, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and chair of the Wisconsin Angel Network’s advisory committee; and Dick Wilkey, founder and president of Fisher-Barton.

Since its inception in 1998, more than 300 students have participated in the competition, while thousands have attended skill-building seminars to develop their business-planning expertise. BusinessWeek and other national media have recognized competition alumni for their successes.

Burrill, a longtime supporter of student innovation and entrepreneurship, is CEO of Burrill & Co., a life sciences merchant bank with more than $950 million under management. He earned a BBA degree from the Wisconsin School of Business in 1966. For more information about the competition, visit