BYU Entrepreneurs Take Home Seed Money in Business Contest

Bob Mims
The Salt Lake Tribune
April 5 2003


PROVO -- Win the Brigham Young University Business Plan Competition and you get a lot more than a share of $120,000 in awards -- you may get a boost down the lucrative path of winners' past.

In 1995, the third year of the contest sponsored by the school's Center for Entrepreneurship, the winner was a plan submitted by then-student Jonathan C. Coon. His winning blueprint was the foundation for Draper-based 1-800-CONTACTS, where he serves as chief executive for the world's largest contact lens retailer.

On Friday, Property Solutions LLC became the 11th winner, with a proposal to market VantageXP, a comprehensive Web-based real estate management software suite. CEO David Bateman accepted a check for $25,000, along with promises of $25,000 more in in-kind legal, marketing and accounting services.

Bateman hopes he, too, can grasp the financial brass ring claimed by Coon.

"We're elated. This will allow us to go longer without having to recruit more investment," he said.

VantageXP, which will be released in May, allows residential property managers to maintain online e-mail contacts with their tenants, conduct credit checks and maintain secure financial records while also giving renters the ability to pay their rent and make maintenance requests online.

Second place and a $10,000 check along with $18,000 more in in-kind services went to My Carnivore, which bills its business as the first and only supplier of carnivorous plant pets.

John Christiansen said his company will offer Venus' fly traps in clear plastic display cases online and through pet and flower shops.

Dierevo, a renewable energy research and development company, and StrollerWorks, which offers a reversible jogging stroller, shared third place. Each received $5,000 in cash and $10,000 in in-kind services.

There was no doubt the contest is held in high esteem by 1-800-CONTACTS, which parlayed that award eight years ago into becoming a company that recorded $169 million in 2002 sales.

Two soon-to-be BYU master's of business administration graduates, Steven Arner and Dave Coltrin, were co-directors of the competition, which began with 97 entrants. From those applicants' executive summaries, 39 were chosen to submit full business plans; last week, nine semi-finalists were chosen.

On Friday, the field had been trimmed to four.

Each of the candidates entered 20-page plans including descriptions of the company's products, marketing plans, operational strategy and expected funding sources -- along with revenue forecasts for the next three years.

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