Pappajohn Student Business Competition

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 2020-21 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: Download the competition guidelines here!

Iowa State students apply online here!

Students who are NOT Iowa State students will need to download the packet and submit an executive summary, a one-page Business Model Canvas, and financial projections to the closest John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center to their home institution. 

Regional John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers:

2021 Timeline of Competition

April 4, 2021 — All applications due

Business documents due to respective John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (by midnight): Application Form, Terms & Conditions, Executive Summary, Business Model Canvas, Financial Spreadsheet(s), and W-9 form (preferred payment to individual, not business).

April 5-14, 2021 — 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 interviews or presentations at the discretion of the regional centers.

April 16 — Up to 15 Teams Selected to Advance

Communication sent to each finalist with specific instructions for submitting pitch decks and video pitches.

April 28, 2021 — Final Statewide Competition & Awards

Finalists will give a pitch (including pitch deck) to John Pappajohn and his senior advisors at Equity Dynamics 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:

2021 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)

Fillable W9 Document 2021 (required for any finalists receiving prize money)

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

Investor Pitch Template (PPT)