A Big Idea brings new or significant value to some group of people. New can be a new organization, product, process or service. It could be a large change for an existing organization, product, or service. It can result in a for-profit or non-profit venture. Past big ideas have come from engineering, nursing, computer science and many other fields.

Participants must be current full or part time MNSU undergraduate or graduate students or recent alumni within two years of graduating. Open to any major. Teams may include 1 to 5 people and may include non-MNSU students as long as the team consists of at least 2/3 current students or recent alumni.

This round is judged online by multiple judges. Submission runs from Thursday, November 15th 8am CST – Friday, February 8th at 11:59pm CST.

The application will require answering the following questions:

What is your idea and what product/service will you offer? Please ensure this is a clear, concise, and persuasive statement.

What is the problem you are solving or opportunity you wish to capitalize upon (how does this idea provide value to your target market)? What alternatives exist to solve the same problem?

Who are your potential customers? How do you deliver your product/service to the market? To what extent have you researched your customers?

What are your projected expenses? How will you make money? 

What are your current resources and what do you need to move forward with your idea?

What are your key milestones? How would you spend the initial prize money to achieve a milestone? 

Main Prize

Five teams with the highest judging scores will advance to the second round. In addition, two teams with the highest judging scores from the Ag/Food/Beverage division will advance to the second round.

If an Ag/Food/Beverage team is in the top five overall scores, they are eligible to compete for all prizes, if not they compete just for the Ag/Food/Beverage prize. 

Help for finalists will be provided: 

o Individual mentors assigned to each team to help with plan and pitch

o Free coaching session with Small Business Development Center

o Videotape your presentation and get feedback.


Finalists will submit a business plan utilizing Live Plan software (provided by the College of Business) and will submit their plan to our judging panel here no later than Saturday, March 30th at 11:59pm. Submitting letters of support from potential clients/customers is also a great way to show judges the viability of your plan. 


Finalists will also submit a short video to demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for the idea. The video should be one to two minutes in length, can be done with your phone, doesn’t have to be professional, make it fun! Upload to YouTube or Vimeo and provide the URL to Be creative in showcasing how your product, service or technology works (show a sample, prototype, demonstration, diagram, role-play/skit, etc.) Students will be encouraged to post their videos on social media platforms to generate buzz and feedback. This is a great way to get individuals excited for the People’s Choice Voting!

On the night of the Challenge event, April 15, 2019, the final round teams will present seven-minute pitches to an audience and panel of judges. No team will be allowed to go over 6 minutes, so be sure to time your presentation carefully! Each presentation will be followed by 10 minutes of Q&A from the judges. The live presentation may consist of speaking, videos, PowerPoint, demonstrations – tell a compelling story and engage your audience. Don’t forget the People’s Choice! Winners will be announced that night, during the Big Ideas Challenge Event.

The business plan and pitch scores will be evenly weighted in determining the winning teams. Top combined scores will receive first, second, and third place. The team that takes first place will be automatic semifinalists to Minnesota Cup, the largest business plan competition in the state.

Award Money Distribution
1st Place: $5,000
2nd Place: $3,000
3rd Place: $2,000
People’s Choice (live audience voting on April 15th): $2,000
Agriculture/Food/Beverage Division: $3,000

By submitting your application to Big Ideas, you agree to participate in the Minnesota Cup the following October, if you are selected as the overall winner. 

Learn more