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Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup announces new prize amounts and creation of Student Innovation Fund

Published August 15, 2023

Dr. McEacharn

CAPTION: Dr. Michelle McEacharn, ULM Dean of the College of Business and Social Sciences, addresses the crowd at the press conference.

MONROE, LA – The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup, Louisiana’s premier business plan competition, announced plans to increase prize amounts as well as the creation of the Student Innovation Fund, which will provide up to $200,000 annually to support new businesses grown from the competition. The announcement was made at a press conference on Monday, August 14, 2023, on the campus of the University of Louisiana Monroe, which hosts the annual competition.  

"This is really quite a moment,” said ULM President Dr. Ron Berry. “It’s one of those moments in our history that’s going to send a strong message to the world that we truly are serious about changing lives on the bayou. We’re serious about reaching out and working with partners, bringing people to campus and to Monroe, Louisiana, to make a difference, not only in our students’ lives but the lives of our faculty and the community at large,” he added.  

When the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup enters its third year in 2024, the first-place prize amount will increase to $50,000, up from $25,000, while the second-place prize will increase to $25,000, up from $15,000. The third-place prize will remain at $10,000, with the pitch competition winner receiving $2,000, and the first through third-place faculty advisors receiving $3,000 each. This brings the total amount awarded each year to $96,000.  

The newly created Student Innovation Fund offers Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup finalists the opportunity to apply for additional funding if they choose to take the next step and pursue their business. The fund will award a total of $200,000 per year over the next five years. Priority will be given to first through third-place teams, but any finalist team is eligible to apply. The fund will help foster the growth of ideas while providing guidance and resources along the way. The Student Innovation Fund is made possible by anonymous donations. 

"With their investment in the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup and Student Innovation Fund, these donors have provided the opportunity for complete and total trajectory changes in the lives of students, that will benefit and transform our community, the region, the state of Louisiana, and perhaps the world,” said Dr. Michelle McEacharn, Dean of the ULM College of Business and Social Sciences.  

The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup was founded by distinguished ULM alumnus Dhu Thompson, who is also the premier sponsor of the event. His increase of the prize money puts this competition among the top of its kind in the nation.  

Cathi Hemed, Director of External Initiatives at ULM, is the organizer of the competition. “With this incredible competition, ULM is leading the way in changing the future for higher education students and making a statement of dedication to Louisiana business development,” said Hemed.  

About the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup 

Open to all majors with cash prizes totaling $96,000, The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup is the premier business plan competition for Louisiana. It provides an opportunity for students to develop critical thinking, team building, presentation, and other soft skills, which are all important to career growth.  The goal is to inspire participants and the community to think entrepreneurially by rewarding creativity, professionalism, and hard work.  The 2024 competition will be open to any degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student throughout the state of Louisiana.  

Teams submit written, formal business plans, which are reviewed and scored independently by a panel of twelve volunteer judges made up of business owners and investors. The panel of judges later deliberates in groups to select the six finalist teams.  

The six finalist teams conduct in-person oral presentations. Five volunteer judges dedicate their time to listening to each team present their business plan and supporting visuals. The judges then deliberate and select the first, second, and third-place winners. Each finalist team also chooses a representative to participate in a 90-second pitch competition, held live during The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup Awards Luncheon. The winner is chosen by the audience at the luncheon via text message voting.  

Dates of 2024 Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup competition: 

01/03/2024 - Applications Open 

02/25/2024 - Applications Close 

03/15/2024 - Announcement of Finalists 

03/26/2024 - Oral Finals 

04/19/2024 - Awards Luncheon and Live Pitch Competition 

Sponsorships to increase the impact of this already extraordinary program are available and allow companies to show their support of Louisiana business development. Anyone seeking sponsorship or information about joining/participating in the Pelican Cup or Student Innovation Fund can reach out to Cathi Hemed, Director of External Initiatives, at hemed@ulm.edu.  The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup Competition Guide is available on the website: www.ulm.edu/pelicancup