The Big Ideas Challenge is a new venture competition that encourages and celebrates innovative business ideas.

The Big Ideas Challenge has three divisions

  1. Open Division
  2. Agriculture/Food/Beverage Division
  3. High-Tech Division

Who is eligible

All three divisions are open to current Minnesota State Mankato students and alumni within two years of graduating. The High-Tech division is open to startups from across the SW Minnesota region.

Individual and team entries are welcome. This new venture competition gives participants the opportunity to compete for money to fund their business.

Learn more about eligibility

High Technology Division

The High Technology Division of the Big Ideas Challenge, which launched in 2021—supported through a donation from Daren and Sarah Cotter, Minnesota State alumni and technology entrepreneur as well as support from LaunchMN, a statewide initiative—aims to support and encourage technology start-ups. This division is the only portion of the Big Ideas Challenge that is open to both student and non-student start-ups from across Southwestern Minnesota.

Agriculture, Food & Beverage Division

The Agriculture, Food & Beverage Division was created in 2018 to highlight and celebrate new ideas in this key area to our regional economy. Generously funded by All American Foods, the award for this division encourages students to develop innovative solutions to industry and consumer needs related to food.

Students in Agribusiness and Agriculture courses are encouraged to consider applying for the Big Ideas Challenge and are challenged with real-world problems from industry to consider. Students in Entrepreneurship and Innovation courses are introduced to issues in agriculture and are encouraged to consider applications for their ideas in that field as they prepare business ideas.

Past winners in this division have included:

  • Downed Duck, remote-controlled duck retrieval
  • Coconut Whisk, a vegan baking mix company
  • CEED Energy, a greenhouse power kit with a vertical-axis wind turbine. View past Winners

Everyone across the university and in the region is encouraged to share information about the Big Ideas Challenge and these exciting divisions – the next big thing maybe just an idea right now, but with some funds and mentorship, we can help make it real in Minnesota.

Thank you to our sponsors for their generous support of the Big Ideas Challenge:

  • Craig Lloyd of Lloyd Companies (alumnus)
  • Daren and Sarah Cotter (alumni)
  • LaunchMN
  • BankVista
  • Jones Metal
  • Minnesota Valley Business Magazine 

The Big Ideas Challenge is completely funded by private support. You can help big ideas from student entrepreneurs succeed. Help grow Big Ideas!