Tenth Year - Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition

January 4, 2021

The College of Business and Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship are about to begin the tenth Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition during Spring semester 2021.  A generous gift from Rick and Susan Sontag funded the endowment that provides the $50,000 annual award to the winning student team.  This award has played a significant role in encouraging UNR students interested in developing and pitching business concepts, often leading to the launch of new businesses.

The essence of the Sontag Competition is experiential learning.  The benefits provided through the competition seem to fall into several key categories:

Entrepreneurial inspiration:  For some student competitors, the competition is their first exposure to entrepreneurship training and support.  One past competitor (finalist) who had no prior business or entrepreneurship classes, said the Sontag Competition experience “ignited the spirit of innovation and gave me the tools to carry that forward.”

Entrepreneurial tools:  Student competitors learn processes (the “tools”) that are critical to improving their chances for success in launching a new business while mitigating risks.  They learn how to determine, relatively quickly, whether their initial assumptions about their business concept are valid and worth investing additional time, energy and money.  They learn how to quickly determine when it is time to pivot.

Networking and engagement:  Students learn the value of engaging with others, including team members, coaches, advisors, potential customers and peers, to advance their business concept.  One key portion of this is learning how to communicate their business concepts through pitches, business plans and video presentations, and the critical skill of listening. 

Self-assessment:  Students determine if they want to pursue starting a business subsequent to college.  If they want to be entrepreneurs, they begin to determine which roles best fit their individual strengths and interests.  Are they best suited to be a business visionary, focus on relationships, and/or undertake operational responsibilities? 

The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition couldn’t be done without the contribution of time and expertise from a group of local entrepreneurs (including some UNR faculty members who have been successful entrepreneurs), who assist as advisors, coaches, mentors and judges.  These individuals help the students throughout the competition, and often afterwards for those students who proceed to launch their businesses.