Skip to main content
Jump to Footer

2023/2024 State System Startup Challenge

The State System Startup Challenge is an opportunity for students attending one of the state-owned universities to compete for prize money of up to $10,000 for their innovative ideas. Winners receive prize money to assist in making their dreams of becoming an entrepreneur come true.

PASSHE - Presentation for SHIP 

PASSHE State System Startup Challenge Information

Application to Compete in the Challenge opens August 2022!


The State System Startup Challenge Committee is seeking State System students who are interested in starting or growing their own business in Pennsylvania. 

Individual students or student teams compete by submitting a condensed version of their business plan—a business profile—to be screened by our committee members and, if eligible, scored by our first round of judges. Those students or student teams with the highest scored profiles—known as semi-finalists—will advance to the second round of judges. The second round of judges will score the semi-finalist profiles, and the highest scored profiles will advance as finalists. Finalists and Semi-finalists will be invited to the final round of the SSS Challenge and the winners will be announced at the conclusion of the event.  

Eligible students include undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled full-time or part-time during the fall 2022 semester at a State System university.

Watch the 2022 State System Startup Challenge here!

2021-2022 State System Startup Challenge Winners

A team led by Erin Burney, a senior in Business Management at Shippensburg University, won the third place, $3,000 award in the competition with a business plan for IRE Productions, a prop making company that primarily services cosplayers with high-quality and affordable pieces. Customers can select from exclusive designs of weapons, armor and other accessories to complete a cosplay ensemble or enjoy the experience of providing their own design and having the company bring the item to life.   

2020-2021 State System Startup Challenge Winners

Congratulations to Shippensburg University students, Alex Spease and Lindsey Neidinger for winning 3rd Place and $2500 Startup Money in the 2021 SSS Challenge! Alex and Lindsey are the Co-Creators of Aloe & Ivy Greenhouse and More.   Lindsey is a marketing major, and Alex is a double-major in Marketing and Entrepreneurship.   Alex and Lindsey are both Honors students in the Woods Honors College and the John L. Grove College of Business. 

2019-2020 State System Startup Challenge Recap

View examples from past years’ competitions: 

Business Profile 1  |  Business Profile 2

**Starting August 2023**
Enter the competition here

Prizes include: 

1st place - $10,000.00
2nd place - $5,000.00
3rd place - $2,500.00

All participants must submit a 2-minute pitch to the State System Startup Challenge by January 6, 2023.

The final round of the competition will be broadcast live on Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Application to Compete in the Challenge opens August, 2022!

Steps to completion:

Create an account  here

ROUND 1: Launch - Tuesday, September 6, 2022 through midnight Friday, December 9, 2022 (extended into January)
Students introduce themselves: name, major, class standing and university and produce a 2-minute business video pitch that addresses the following questions:
▪ What is your business idea?
▪ What problem or need are you addressing?
▪ How are you solving the problem or need?
▪ Who are your customers?
▪ How will your business idea generate revenue?
➢ Scholarship Manager portal contact information: Students provide basic student information including school, major, university student email and cell phone number.
➢ Students should contact their University Startup Challenge Coordinate for assistance with the video productions for Round 1

ROUND 2: Launch - Wednesday, February 1, 2023 through midnight, Friday, February 24, 2023. Student address the following topics based on the Business Model Canvas:
Executive Summary - 500 words or less. Summarize your business idea, product, or service.
Key Partners - 500 words or less, Identify and describe your key partners, the resources they provide, and how they optimize your business model.
Key Activities - 500 words or less, Describe the key activities that are integral to successfully operating your business, for example, reaching customers, creating a value proposition, and generating revenue.
Key Resources - 500 words or less, Describe the key resources that are needed to make your business model work and support your value proposition.
Value Proposition - 500 words or less, Describe what values you deliver to your customer through your product and or services. Values can be quantitative (i.e., price and speed of service) or qualitative (i.e., design and customer experience).
Customer Relationships - 500 words or less, Describe how you get, keep, and grow your customer base.
Customer Segments - 500 words or less, Describe the different groups of customers that your company plans to reach or serve.
Channels - 500 words or less, Channels are customer touch points such as communication, distribution, and sales. Describe the different methods your company plans to use to deliver your products/services and your value proposition to your customers.
Cost Structure - 500 words or less, The cost structure refers to how a company spends money on business operations. Provide a budget narrative of your expenses including operations and personnel.
Revenue Streams - 500 words or less, Revenue Streams are a company’s source of cash flow and reflect the different ways your company’s value proposition generates money. Provide a budget narrative including the revenue generate from your multiple revenue streams, i.e., customers segments?

ROUND 3: Live Presentation April 2023 (TBD)
The top 3 students/teams will present live on PCNTV-Pennsylvania Cable Network and compete for three awards: $10,000 first place, $6,000 second place and $3,000 third place (cash and in-kind services). The live event will be held in April, date (TBD) at the PCNTV headquarters in Camp Hill, PA. Award values may vary based on available sponsorships and services.  

Participants of the competition agree by registering for the competition to allow PASSHE to use their photographs, name, or details of their entry in publicizing the State System Startup Challenge.

1. Eligible applicants must be matriculated undergraduate or graduate students, enrolled full-time or part-time during the Fall 2022 semester, at any of the PA State System of Higher Education universities: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, West Chester. 

2. A team of contestants must include an active state system student who has a management level role within the business. 

3. Nonprofit businesses must have no less than 2 State Systems students who are founders of the business and with voting rights shall be members of the Board when the business is launched. A copy of the organization's By-Laws can be added to the Business Profile, which will evidence the inclusion of student membership within the Board. 

4. Team Members need not come from the same State System university; teams could be formed from one or more State System universities. 

5. Only active students should be listed as the Team Leader and additional applicants; you will identify other equity ownership members, who are not active State System students, in the management section question in the business profile.

6. An eligible pre-venture or early stage business is one that: has been operating for three years or less to include a business operating as a sole-proprietorship and has cumulative revenue from sales during the last three years (2018-2020) of $75,000 or less. 

7. To qualify for the funding awards the businesses must be located in Pennsylvania. The business' headquarters operations and a majority of key management personnel must be located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Be sure to indicate your business' actual or planned location by name.  Business incorporation may be made in States other than Pennsylvania, likewise, sales, operations and business related activities can be conducted nationally and internationally. 

8. An individual or team who had previously received third-party funding must disclose the amount and the percentage of equity owned by non-student equity owners, when completing the financial section of the Business Profile. 

9. Each team of contestants must have control over intellectual property (IP) or written permission to use the IP in the business they propose to launch from the person and/or organization who owns the IP. 

Contestants are encouraged to protect the intellectual property they propose to make, distribute or sell in the business profile. If you are unsure of intellectual property issues, then speak with your university's contact. At the same time, contestants must ensure that their proposed development does not infringe on intellectual property of others.  Intellectual property includes copyrights, trademarks/service marks, provisional patents and patents. 

Intent to license another's intellectual property as a component of your product or service is allowed in the business plan competition. 

If you have a question regarding Intellectual Property ownership, please link to: Student Intellectual Property Agreements

Prizes include:

  • 1st place - $10,000.00 

  • 2nd place - $5,000.00

  • 3rd place - $2,500.00

The awards for the first, second, and third place winners are intended to assist the winners in capitalizing and developing or growing their business venture.

Prize money is available to currently enrolled and matriculating degree candidate students in good standing as of the fall 2022 semester. Awardees of the First, Second and Third major cash prizes:

  • A portion, 10%, of the award will be available as cash upon receipt of the W9 form. The balance of the award will be held in escrow by the awardees University. Awards will be transferred to the university from the PA Foundation and will be released to the winner for business related costs with proof of payment.
  • No more than 10% of the award can be used for salaries or wages.
  • Business related costs may include, but are not limited to professional services, such as accounting, legal, or consulting, that are needed to complete the business plan, establish a legal structure, secure financing, and complete related start up tasks.
  • The use of free resources, such as the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC), on-line training, are recommended and preferred. However, awardees are permitted to use up to 30% of their award for professional development/training that meets the following standards:
    • The development or training must be necessary to obtain a certification or license that is required by the state to operate the winning business.
    • They must be short-term (one to two weeks) intensive training, including continuing education units (CEU) programs, which provide the skills needed to operate their business.
    • Conferences must be less than one week and offer professional development sessions that provide the skills needed to operate their business.
  • Rent and utilities for space to conduct the business.
  • Working capital for business costs, which include advertising, supplies, materials, inventory, web site development, etc.
  • Necessary equipment.
  • No funds may be used to complete degree requirements at any level.

Students who are undergraduates or in graduate school, at the date of the award, have up to three (3) years from the date of the award to expend all awarded funds.  An extension may be allowed based on justification satisfactory to and with approval by the university and Competition Coordinator. 

If a team wins the competition and only one, or several, of the team members proceed with the business development, those who proceed with the development will receive the award benefit. Teams are encouraged to enter into an Operating Agreement, prior to or upon entry into the competition.  If not a sole proprietorship, then companies should provide evidence that a legal entity was actually formed, for example, a Partnership, or Limited Liability Company (LLC).  A W-9 Taxpayer ID form will be required of each cash awardee. (W9 will be provided at the conclusion of the Awards Ceremony TBD.) 

Funds in escrow will be deposited at the awardee's university in a secure interest bearing account, with interest to accrue to the awardee.

Students are encouraged to contact their campus representative for a list of business development resources, such as Small Business Development Centers, and Mentors which may be available to them, as well as any additional information about the State System Startup Challenge. Your university Entrepreneur Leadership Coordinator or university designee can provide assistance.  Be sure to seek advice as everyone is willing to assist you.

Shippensburg University's campus representatives are:

Madi White