The first place winners of the 2016 Business Plan Competition at Cal State Fullerton receive an honor at the podium.

2016 Business Plan Competition first-place winners Mandy Wang (left) and Miguel Olivares (right). The annual event is an opportunity to gain funding and experience to turn entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

The annual CSUF Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship, will be held this spring. Miguel Olivares ’16, part of last year’s first-place team, discusses how involvement in the competition has broadened his horizons.

Cal State Fullerton is ready to assist the next generation of business innovators. All CSUF students – not just business majors – who develop a business pitch can compete in the CSUF Business Plan Competition. Students have a chance to win $5,000 in scholarships and $10,000 worth of in-kind consulting time with industry experts, as well as the opportunity to pitch an idea before real-world business professionals and investors.

Last year’s first-place winner was Little Nexus, a platform to help nonprofits raise funds through local businesses, including restaurants. Presented by Miguel Olivares ’16 (marketing and management), former president of Mihaylo’s Sigma Upsilon Mu entrepreneurial co-ed fraternity, and Mandy Wang ’16 (entrepreneurship), the vision for Little Nexus developed from Sigma Upsilon Mu’s 8-Hour Business Challenge.

“When Little Nexus was named the winner of the business plan competition, it was one of the greatest moments of my life,” says Olivares. “It validated all the hard work we had put into making the concept a reality. After the competition, the Center for Entrepreneurship and its director, John Bradley Jackson, helped prepare us for the California Dreamin’ competition. That is a national competition for the first-place winners of business plan competition in schools all over the nation. There, we got a taste of the big league and learned so much from our experience.”

Students present a business model presentation on stage at the 2016 Business Plan Competition at Cal State Fullerton.

Miguel Olivares and Mandy Wang present the basis for their business model. The CSUF Business Plan Competition provides a chance to articulate your concept, with the rigorous review of professional judges. Photo by Soham Wadekar ’16

While competition and judging is intense, Olivares says it is more than worth the effort. “The judges asked extremely tough questions, but thanks to our preparation, we were ready and able to hold our ground and prove our concept,” he says. “There was a moment where one of the judges went for a death kill and aggressively told us that our app development cost was completely unrealistic.

“That’s where I pulled out the extended deck and showed the judge a complete project work plan detailing all the work that was to be done and the price for it from the developer that I was hiring. There was no question that we were not prepared for.”

The Long-Term Benefit

The CSUF Business Plan Competition is more than a short-term funding and business development opportunity. It is also an invaluable experience to enhance your career, no matter what path you follow. “Participating in the CSUF Business Plan Competition helped fine tune my skills as an entrepreneur,” says Olivares.

“It helped me build a network and demonstrated that I was serious about entrepreneurship. This has led me to getting hired at my current job at Hall & Partners, a market research agency performing qualitative and quantitative studies for large clients, including Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.”

Involvement in the competition has encouraged Olivares to continue to assist other entrepreneurs in their journeys. “I am currently working with Mexico’s government and the City of Los Angeles to launch a conference aimed at inspiring immigrant student entrepreneurs, particularly the children of undocumented migrants, or Dreamers,” he says. “With the current political climate, the immigrant community wishes to come together to provide these hungry student entrepreneurs with hope and resources.”

John Bradley Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State Fullerton's Mihaylo College, speaks at a podium.

Center for Entrepreneurship director John Bradley Jackson is committed to providing practical business startup experience, advice, mentoring and support for concepts developed by CSUF students, alumni and the broader Orange County community. Photo by Soham Wadekar  ’16

Advice for Competitors

Olivares wants to encourage this year’s competitors to remain committed to their dreams.

“If you really want to start a business, take this opportunity to use the CSUF Business Plan Competition as a milestone to get your business launched,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur is about action and the best time to start anything is now. Don’t just talk about how you will one day start a business. Work at it, even if it’s just baby steps. Leave the excuses at home and seek the help and guidance you need from knowledgeable entrepreneurs.

“The Center for Entrepreneurship is a great resource for this and they have always been more than willing to help in all my business ideas and ventures. Take advantage of the resources you have.”

For More Information

In order to participate in the competition, you must be a current CSUF student as of the spring 2017 semester, and all majors are welcome. The application is available online and you may enter through March 12. For more information, contact the Center for Entrepreneurship at

Leave a Reply