Pappajohn Student Business Competition

The 2019 Pappajohn Student Entrepreneurial Venture Competition finalists from Iowa State University from L to R: Diana Wright, Iowa State Pappajohn Center; Anthony House, Home Painter; Jacob McClarnon, Home Painter; Dan Cosgrove, Growers Edge; Rebecca Lyons, Lunchsox; Dan Stork, Equity Dynamics; John Pappajohn, Equity Dynamics; Chris James, True360; Judi Eyles, Iowa State Pappajohn Center

Pappajohn Student Business Competition

Sponsored by John Pappajohn, Equity Dynamics, Inc., the Pappajohn Student Entrepreneurial Venture Competition is intended for Iowa university and college students with an interest in starting their own business. Plans are judged based on a) Content of Plan and b) Viability of business idea. Three (3) seed grants in the amount of $5,000 are awarded to the top three business plans submitted in the competition.  In addition, all finalists receive $500 if not chosen for the top awards.


  • Full or part-time undergraduate or graduate students registered for the 2019-20 academic year at any Iowa post-secondary educational institution are eligible for the competition.
  • Plans may be submitted by an individual or by a team of students.
  • Teams must consist of at least one student member.
  • Teams must consist of five or fewer members.
  • Business plans must be for a start-up business only (not for an existing business).

How to apply: 

Students will need to submit an executive summary, a one-page Business Model Canvas and financial projections to the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center closest to their home institution.

Regional John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers:

ISU applicants, apply online here!


Applicants outside of ISU, download packet here!

2020 Timeline of Competition

March 5, 2020 — Workshop
ISU Memorial Union, Campanile Room, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Learn more about the Pappajohn Student Business Plan Competition, tips and tricks, and ask questions about the criteria.

March 27, 2020 — All applications due

Initial submission of Executive Summary, One-page Business Model Canvas, Financial Projections (Income Statement), and Terms & Conditions (signed)

March 30 to April 10 — Judging, Regional Competition ($500)

Each of the five regional locations will select no more than three top business plans to compete in the final competition.  Regional competitions may include personal interviews or oral presentations at the discretion of the regional centers.

April 10 — Up to 15 Teams Selected to Advance

April 22, 2020 — Final Statewide Competition/Awards ($5,000)
Tentatively set for 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Regional award winners will give a pitch presentation (including slide deck) to Equity Dynamics staff in Des Moines, Iowa.  Three top awards ($5,000 each) will be presented following a luncheon event.  ($5,000 winners are not eligible for the $500 regional award–only one award per team.)

Guidelines & Resources

Required downloads to compete:

2020 Pappajohn Student Entrepreneurial Venture Competition Guidelines (PDF)

Use this guideline as an overview of the competition.  Please note:  you do not need to submit your application via email if you are a student at Iowa State or a nearby post-secondary school to the Iowa State Pappajohn Center.  This is only applicable to the other regional Pappajohn Centers and post-secondary applicants.

Executive Summary reference links:

Executive Summary Guidelines (PDF)

Business Model Canvas reference links:

Business Model Template (PPT)

Financial Projections reference links:

Copy of StartupModels Financial Template (excel)

Please reference the Income Statement tab (3-year projections)

Pitch Deck reference links (required of finalists in Round 2):

Investor Pitch Template (PPT)