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UW’s John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition Emcees Announced, Event Planned

April 7, 2022

The University of Wyoming College of Business invites the public to attend the 22nd annual John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition in person or virtually Friday and Saturday, April 22-23.

This year’s competition will be moderated by Josh Dorrell, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council, and Mike Peck, vice president at First Interstate Bank in Laramie. It will be judged by five prestigious panelists and will feature eight student teams from UW and Wyoming’s community colleges competing for $50,000 in seed money to grow their businesses.

Each team will compete in Round 1, which kicks off April 22 at 10 a.m. Round 1 will consist of 10- to 11-minute presentations and 10-12 minutes of questions from the judging panelists. The top two teams from each track (undergraduate and graduate) from day one will advance to the Round 2 presentations April 23 beginning at 10 a.m. The four teams that advance to Round 2 will be announced at 4 p.m. April 22.

Round 2 will feature 25-minute interactive discussions between teams and judges, who will play the role of potential customers of each business. The final winner(s) and award amounts will be announced at 1 p.m. April 23. 

“The John P. Ellbogen $50K Entrepreneurship Competition provides an exciting experience for students at the University of Wyoming to turn their dreams into reality. It provides a fantastic opportunity for our student teams to learn about the entrepreneurial process while being paired with real-world mentors and learning from an outstanding panel of judges,” says Patrick Kreiser, UW College of Business Rile Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership. “Entrepreneurial thinkers thrive in times of change and uncertainty, and the current economic climate shows why innovative business models are so critical to Wyoming’s future. Positive change comes from educating the citizens of Wyoming and helping students to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.”

The winner of the first competition in 2001 was Rocky Mountaineering Inc., with team members Marvin Perry (M.S. 2001, mechanical engineering); Joe Pawlicki (MBA 2001 and B.S. 1997, finance); and Lacey (Songer) Mercil (MBA 2001 and B.S. 1998, agriculture). Their business idea focused on manufacturing rock-climbing and mountaineering products in Laramie.

With private support from First Interstate Bank Foundation, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation and individual donors, UW’s entrepreneurship competition continued to grow and flourish. In 2011, the competition prize money grew from $10,000 to $30,000, and it became a $50,000 competition in 2017.

In 2010, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation created an endowment that was matched by the state of Wyoming to provide support for the competition award winners in perpetuity.

An important goal of UW’s College of Business is to support the vitality of the state. In support of such efforts, the college has expanded this event to include various types of businesses and industry contexts.

“The Ellbogen competition allows students the opportunity to take their ideas to the next level -- to put them into practice -- and, over the history of the event, many winners have gone on to form successful businesses, keeping our students in the state and expanding Wyoming’s economic diversity,” says College of Business Interim Dean Rob Godby. “The College of Business has been proud to be part of this opportunity for students to build their futures and to add to economic dynamism in the state.”

Notable companies that have launched successfully after competing in the UW entrepreneurship competition are Table Mountain Vineyards in 2004; Bright Agrotech in 2011; GlycoBac LLC in 2011; and Valued Energy Platform, now Disa LLC, in 2017.

“The finalist teams in this year’s competition represent a wide variety of business types,” Kreiser says. “It is extremely important for new business ideas to enter the Wyoming economy. We are ecstatic that the hard work and entrepreneurial initiative shown by these teams will translate into economic growth and job creation throughout the state.”

To register to attend the event, go here. For more information, email Josie Voight at

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