Press Release

April 16, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

President Matt vandenBerg announces the new OWU Business Plan Competition today at the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University (DEC OWU). With a $250,000 prize package, the new competition is the most valuable such contest in the state. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Big Business

Ohio Wesleyan to Launch Entrepreneurial Competition with State's Largest Prize Package

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University announced plans today to launch an annual Business Plan Competition this summer with a combined prize package of more than $250,000 – the most valuable contest of its kind statewide.

"The Ohio Wesleyan University Business Plan Competition enables us to support entrepreneurs of all ages, across more communities, as we work to cement OWU as a hub for innovation and a home base for founders – not only for Delaware, but also for Columbus, for Ohio, and for the United States," said President Matt vandenBerg, Ed.D., who announced the competition April 16 at The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University, or DEC OWU.

"This competition will recognize up-and-coming entrepreneurs and reward their potential with prizes that include financial investment and other transformative resources, including access to our on-campus entrepreneurial center," vandenBerg said. "The winners will incubate in the DEC OWU, growing Delaware's reputation as a talent magnet along with their businesses. This is an exciting new chapter for OWU, Delaware, and entrepreneurs everywhere."

The OWU Business Plan Competition will include both a student track, open to all current college students, and a community track, open to all others. First-, second-, and third-place winners in both categories will be awarded a combination of products, services, and investments to propel them forward, including access to The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center and its resources.

Phil Smith, the center's director, said those wishing to participate in the Ohio Wesleyan Business Plan Competition will go through a preliminary round of judging using an online application opening July 1. The most promising businesses will move forward based on criteria such as completeness of their business plan, existing funding, and potential impact of their product or service.

"Participants will gain real-world experience, receive expert advice, and discover their path forward to make their startup dream a reality," Smith said. "This is an exciting moment for The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center and for all entrepreneurs ready to make their mark."

Additional information about the competition will be posted online at

The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University, 70 S. Sandusky St., Delaware, is the first-of-its-kind liberal arts business accelerator and the first-of-its-kind city, county, and educational institute partnership. It receives financial support from the City of Delaware and Delaware County, with both entities able to access its offices and services.

Since 2018, the center has supported budding businesses by connecting them with Ohio Wesleyan student-interns able to assist with accounting, data analysis, event planning, graphic design, market research, volunteer coordination, website creation, and other needs. As they work, the students gain hands-on, real-world business experience to help them fulfill their own entrepreneurial ambitions.

Since its opening, the center also has hosted regular "Delaware Does Entrepreneurship" meetings to enable new entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas before a roomful of established business operators, angel investors, and others who listen and provide feedback. Over the past six years, 11 companies have grown and graduated out of the center, adding 45 new full-time jobs to the local tax base and attracting more than $3.7 million in investments and grants.

Learn more about The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University and its opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation's premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book "Colleges That Change Lives" and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review "Best Colleges" lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at or learn more at