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Evanston Student wins $30k Entrepreneurship Competition at UW


April 24, 2013 — With three semesters remaining before he graduates from the University of Wyoming, Shawheen Amirkhizi, an accounting junior from Evanston, already runs his own business. The next step: grow his small independent company into a top competitor in its specialty field.

And he has $10,000 to get the business off the ground.

Amirkhizi recently won the annual John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the UW College of Business. His presentation for Rave-Nation.com, an online retail business specializing in accessories and apparel related to the booming Electronic Dance Music (EDM) industry, topped four other student business presentations.

The competition encourages students to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading businesses. The $30K competition awards cash prizes to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submit business plans for new ventures that show significant business potential. The College of Business sponsors the student business competition.

Amirkhizi won the first-place award of $10,000, plus an additional $2,500 progress prize as he continues to develop his business plan. He also will receive in-kind business services (consulting) and free rent in the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC).

For people who attend EDM concerts and raves, Rave-Nation.com provides hundreds of unique and rare products including clothing, lighted gloves, goggles and a variety of other specialized apparel.

“I spent countless hours preparing for the competition, but I did not know very much about the other entrants and I wasn’t sure if I could truly explain Rave-Nation’s and my own potential,” Amirkhizi says. “I am glad I invested so much time and energy into the competition. It was a tremendous opportunity that, of course, helped me financially but, more importantly, forced me to learn much more about my business.”

He says that may be even more important to him than the first-place prize.

“It’s hard to explain how excited and grateful I am to have won it, and I wish to further prove I deserved to win it by growing Rave-Nation to its full potential in the coming years,” Amirkhizi says.

Amirkhizi first became interested in the EDM business when an older brother had his own company, Twilight Entertainment, which promoted EDM concerts in Salt Lake City, Utah. Amirkhizi learned the business and how to help promote rave concerts.

While working for his brother, Amirkhizi organized two small concerts in Evanston, working every aspect from booking the artists, being in charge of promotion and even helping with stage setup.

Four years ago, Amirkhizi started Rave-Nation.com when he noticed that his brother’s store did not sell certain lights that “ravers” wanted. He invested in his own inventory to sell from his brother’s store in Salt Lake City but, when it later went out of business, Amirkhizi decided to sell his remaining products online.

The 2008 Evanston High School graduate, for winning the UW competition, also was awarded one year free use of WTBC facilities and advice from its business experts. The WTBC, located at UW, is a not-for-profit business incubator that provides entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for success.

Amirkhizi is purchasing an Enterprise Resource Planning software package that will dramatically improve his current operations by automating many day-to-day tasks and providing quality data for better decision making. The first-place prize will help purchase and implement the vital software, he says.

“I will be working with the WTBC for the next year and I feel that this is an invaluable experience. Up until recently, I have made all the major decisions and managed all aspects of Rave-Nation by myself, so I am extremely grateful to be able to work with the WTBC,” Amirkhizi says. “Having their assistance will push me to work even harder and will allow me to analyze my options, decisions and outcomes more efficiently, ultimately allowing me to take Rave-Nation to the next level.”

He adds that he will use his UW accounting education to help set up accounting records and financial statements for Rave-Nation.com before he graduates in fall 2014.

For a complete list of the $30k competition competitors and their business plans, visit the website at http://www.uwyo.edu/business/ellbogen-30k/.

For more information about the competition, contact Rachel Stevens in the College of Business Department of Management and Marketing at (307) 766-3124 or e-mail rstevens@uwyo.edu.

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