Entrepreneurial Grants

St. Olaf College has a long history of engaged alumni supporting students in all stages of the entrepreneurial process. Past programs include the Finstad Entrepreneurial Grant program, which awarded grants to full-time St. Olaf students or teams that develop the best business plan for a for-profit venture. In true entrepreneurial spirit, this year the team is prototyping a refined program that leverages both the Finstad funding and regional partnership support. The Entrepreneurial Venture Concept Grant is intended to support the idea and testing phase of a venture, providing students the opportunity to dig deep and prototype a concept, confirming feasibility (or failure) prior to moving into the business plan stage.

Grants are awarded on a rolling basis – each idea is evaluated on its own merit so that students are not competing with a cohort, but on the merit of the idea and presentation. Grant awards range from $500-$1500, and budgets are proposed by the student, specifically for the purpose of the test phase.

Application Information: Entrepreneurial Venture Concept Grant

What is it?

The Entrepreneurial Venture Concept Grant is funding for you to test out your idea, prototype, or business concept and determine if it is a viable market opportunity. Examples of funding uses would include: building a prototype, collecting focus group and survey data, obtaining a risk assessment from a lawyer, or similar early-stage market testing projects. Applications are taken on a rolling basis – this means that you are competing only with yourself, not with a pool of others, to win the funding. Grant awards range from $500-$1500.

Who should apply?

You should apply if:

  • You are a full-time St. Olaf student, and
  • You have a product, service, or business idea, and
  • You have built a basic business concept around the idea, and
  • You need to build a prototype or do additional market research to determine whether the idea is viable, and
  • You intend to bring the idea to market, to Ole Cup, or to similar business venture competitions (if the market testing proves that you should)
How do I apply?

Applications are open from November 1-March 1 or until funding runs out. You should plan for an answer to your application within 4-6 weeks of submission. You can submit your application through Handshake.

What is included in the application?

The application consists of a 3-5 pages business concept summary and a 3-minute video or audio pitch. The business concept summary should include:

  • Summary of the business concept, product, or service idea
  • Basic market research overview
  • Basic financial analysis (draft pricing, market size, general costs)
  • Amount requested ($500-$1500) and detailed budget showing how that amount would be spent
  • Work you have done thus far on the project

The 3-minute video or audio pitch is your opportunity to tell us why we should invest this funding in you and your idea. Be creative. The only requirement is that the pitch is no longer than three minutes.

How are applications judged?

The applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis by one judge internal to St. Olaf and one external judge in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The second judge might be an alumnus, a colleague from another college, or a subject matter expert. Margaret Bransford will guide the process but will not be a decision maker so that she can remain a neutral entrepreneurship coach for you.

Applications will be judged on their merit based on their potential as ventures, the work you have put in, the spending plan (budget) for the funding, and the impact of your pitch.

What if I have more questions?

Contact Margaret Bransford (bransf1@stolaf.edu) to set up a meeting to discuss this opportunity in more detail. You can also set up coaching appointments with her through Handshake to get your application ready.