For the ninth year in a row, business-minded UNM students can win up to $25,000 through a campus competition.

Students can now register for the annual UNM Business Plan Competition organized by the Anderson School of Management. The competition is open to students of any major and to UNM alumni who want to start their own business.

Libby Sanzero, program manager for the competition, said the competition will “help nurture an entrepreneurial culture” at UNM to help the New Mexico economy. She said participation in the contest is also beneficial for student’s career paths.

“It’s an opportunity for any student at UNM who has even thought of being in a business and considered being the master of their own fate,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to try it in a risk-free environment and win some serious money.”

In the competition, participants will be required to write and present a business plan, which should include details such as market information and sales projections, Sanzero said.

She said participants can submit business plans in either the entrepreneurial category, which does not require intellectual property, or in the technology category, which requires intellectual property.

“We have an amazing resource of intellectual property in the Albuquerque area,” she said. “We’re rich with that because of the work of the Science and Technology Corporation here at UNM and also at the national laboratories in Sandia and Los Alamos. There’s technology there just waiting to be commercialized.”

Although the deadline for business plans is March of next year, Sanzero said she urges students to form teams and to start brainstorming business ideas early. Participants will then present their business plans in front of about 100 judges in April, she said.

Judges will look for “how strongly you feel about your idea, because success is often precedent in that passion,” Sanzero said. She said six winners will be selected in the competition.

Sanzero said in the technology track, the first-place winner will receive $25,000, the second $20,000, and the third $10,000. In the entrepreneurial track, the first-place winner will receive $7,500, the second $5,000, and the third $2,500, she said.

“One of our winners last year was a sandwich truck, and they’re launching in November,” she said. “So it could be kind of fun.”
Nathan Tafoya, a UNM graduate student in management of technology who was one of the first-placers in the technology track of the competition last year, said he discovered his business-minded self through the contest.

“It definitely made me understand that I have an entrepreneurial inclination,” he said. “We’re now using gaming platforms to create educational apps.”

Tafoya said upon winning funds, he founded Blackfish Educational Apps along with his partner and co-winner Tom Anderson, whom he met at Sandia National Laboratories. He said his company is now working on educational apps for K-12 students.

A first-generation college student, Tafoya said the contest changed his life.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I feel really appreciative. It’s a really great idea. It’s easier to create a business plan when there’s no real stakes. In real life, you would have already invested the money before you create your business plan.”

Sanzero said the contest would provide UNM students real-life business experience.

“It’s taking everything that you are learning in the classroom and giving you the opportunity to put it all together and turn it into something that’s real,” she said. “It’s almost like having an internship. It’s a growth opportunity that is a multiplier in everything you’re learning.”

And although she said drafting a business plan takes months, Sanzero said she encourages students to “find the time to do it.”
“It’s worth making this a priority,” she said. “It has the potential to truly alter your future in a way that you can’t even understand.”

For information on how to register for the competition, visit