Things are moving along nicely for the Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship’s (VIBE) first ever business plan competition. Open to all colleges and universities in the South Sound and members of the broader community as well, the competition is generally patterned after the popular television show “Shark Tank,” which features average people with entrepreneurial dreams competing for a chance to make their dream a reality.
Based at the University of Washington-Tacoma, VIBE provides an applied training environment that supports military veterans’ entrepreneurial aspirations and promotes their understanding of the modern startup life cycle. With the deadline being March 31 for contest entrants to submit executive summaries, VIBE Director Thomas Kuljam said there will be one more pitch round/open mic session on Saturday, March 18, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at RP/6 USO in Lakewood.
“This allows servicemembers from JBLM and South Sound colleges and universities to attend and go over the rules and protocols, and give them the opportunity to pitch their ideas,” he said. Every team in the competition must be comprised of a student and a veteran (and one person can fill both these roles) so the day will also allow students and vets to connect with each other.
Following March 31, there will be several more stops along the way to choosing a winner, including an investment round at a tradeshow style event from which finalists will be chosen, a coaching round for finalists to practice pitching, and finals in early May.
VIBE is quickly becoming a world-class training environment that is veteran friendly, embraces and encourages aspiring entrepreneurs from the UWT’s ecosystem to collaborate and help develop the local and world economy. This competition is part of Kuljam’s mission to create an epicenter of entrepreneurial culture in the South Sound and thereby keep talent in this area rather than watching it all drive away to Seattle each working day.
“I want people to realize, especially veterans, that they have talent and can create something bigger for themselves,” Kuljam said. “Just because you went to trade school doesn’t mean you have to work in that trade – you can still get more education and learn to understand the language of business to create and retain jobs in the Tacoma/Pierce County/South Sound areas.”
Through the VIBE business plan competition, Kuljam is doing his part to bring better opportunities to Tacoma and the South Sound both for entrepreneurs and the folks that entrepreneurs need to run their businesses.
“This is not a UWT thing – it’s a community/South Sound thing,” he said. “We want to inspire future and current entrepreneurs to develop an ecosystem. We have a lot of support – we just need to have proof of the concept that there are people out there thinking the same way.”
For more information, visit www.tacoma.uw.edu/VIBE/BPC.