After working on their business plans for months, five finalist teams will present their pitches at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science 2020 Business Plan Competition sponsored by Cadence Bank and Lee-Way Financial.

The event is set to take place at 4 p.m. in the Nissan Auditorium on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women on Feb. 20. 

The following teams were selected to compete in the third annual competition: 

  1. The Break Room- Alicia Argrett, Catherine Min
  2. Learning in Style- Cameron Thomas, Russell Thompson, Niamke Buchanan 
  3. GroundUP- Skylar Nguyen, Henry Sanders, Aaron Wan
  4. Corner Counseling- Michael Lu, Esmond Tsang
  5. Genesis Creations- Samaria Swims, Amelia Ferguson, Isabella Lindley, Kate Hall

At the competition, each team will have 15 minutes to present their business pitch in front of the entire student body, local community members and a panel of judges for a chance to win a cash prize. This year, John Brady, a Cadence Bank Advisory Board member and attorney at Mitchell, McNutt & Sams P.A. and Dr. Pamela Lacy, a Medical Director of Obstetrics at Baptist Memorial Hospital, will judge each team’s pitch. 

Established in 2017, the Business Plan Competition gives students at MSMS the opportunity to develop and present business plans that address growing concerns in the state of Mississippi. Although each group is given a template to help guide them along the way, they ultimately determine all aspects of their business, which includes marketing plans, financing plans, business management plans and cost management strategies.  

Every August, all students at MSMS are notified of the upcoming competition and are encouraged to participate. In preparation for the final round on the 20th, students work rigorously from September to early February.  

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By Sept. 6, all individuals/groups confirm they are entering the competition. For the 2020 Business Plan Competition, the following students entered for a chance to secure a finalist spot: 

1.     Niyah Troup, Amyria Kimble, Alisha Burch

2.     Geneva Hamilton, Philnise Phillips

3.     Kelly Tran

4.     Austin Eubank, Blake Cheater

5.     Matthew Dunn, Hardy Cooke

6.     Alicia Argrett, Catherine Min

7.     Cameron Thomas, Russell Thompson, Niamke Buchanan 

8.     Skylar Nguyen, Henry Sanders, Aaron Wan

9.     Michael Lu, Esmond Tsang

10.  Samaria Swims, Amelia Ferguson, Isabella Lindley, Kate Hall


After submitting their business plans in early November, representatives from the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach determine the top five teams on December 6. This year, Jeffrey Rupp, along with five student E-Center workers who have participated in MSU’s Venture Catalyst Program, judged each submission to determine the five finalist teams for the 2020 Business Plan Competition.

VentureCatalyst is a comprehensive, co-curricular program for MSU’s students and faculty who are interested in starting a successful, investor-backed company. Successful exit from the program is met when the team has built a company that has raised sufficient capital for 18-months of operation or is self-sustaining on its own earnings. To learn more about the program, visit ecenter.msstate.edu/programs/venturecatalyst/. 


Prior to the final competition, an experienced judging panel will deliver personalized, individual feedback to participants during one-on-one meetings to improve each business plan. 

This year, the panel consisted of Cadence Bank Advisory Board members Jack Chilcutt, president of New Home Building Stores and Cadence Bank Columbus President Doug Robertson.

“My most important role in my 40-year banking career, and a common purpose of all Cadence associates, is helping my clients reach their personal financial goals,” Robertson said. “In my experience, the best way to do that is to begin with a good plan. That’s why I volunteered to serve as a mentor to the many fine students at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science’s Business Plan Competition. It was clear from my brief time with them that they possess the commitment and self-discipline to be successful students. Those same traits bode well for the business world as well.”


On Feb. 3, the five finalist teams will visit MSU’s E-Center to pitch their business plans. After presenting, E-Center student workers provide feedback for each team. 

After the teams revise their business plans one last time, all finalized plans are emailed to the judges before the final competition.