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Big idea launches 2023 high school business competition

The capacity to have a great idea knows no boundaries. High school students are invited to submit their best business ideas to the 2023 BIG Idea Competition, which is open from September 1 to October 31. Over $50,000 in cash and scholarships to be awarded this year. The BIG Idea Competition continues to expand as will feature one of South Dakota’s own successful young entrepreneurs, John T. Meyer, at the final competition in December.

The online application as well as various resources and examples can be accessed at the BIG Idea website: In addition to the overall competition awards, students can compete for five special category awards. For the marketing design competition, students can create an ad to support their business idea. Special category awards will be given for the best ideas in Wellness, Agriculture Innovation, and Hometown Business. Blackout Industries will sponsor a new Makers category this year to recognize a business which makes physical products.

The BIG Idea Competition has always been marketed to South Dakota high schools. After recognition in a guidebook by the Institute of Competition Sciences, BIG Idea has received growing interest outside of South Dakota. Last year, a virtual competition was held for out-of-state students in addition to the traditional in person event for South Dakota students. Both competitions will be incorporated going forward.

“Understanding the basics of business is an important life skill, regardless of career path, which is important to our sponsors,” says BIG Idea Coordinator Kelly Weaver. “BIG Idea helps students interested in pursuing a business connect with resources and mentors to help further their entrepreneurial growth and business success.” Students and teachers alike testify to the value of the competition; over 60% of participants say they are more interested in starting a business after competing.

Applications submitted by the October 31, 2023 deadline will be reviewed and ranked. The top scoring entries will make a verbal presentation to determine the winner. Finalists will receive cash awards of $100 to $1,000 along with college scholarships to Northern State University and SD School of Mines & Technology. One winner will be chosen from among all the marketing design entries as well as each of the special categories. Prizes for these awards are $500 cash and $500 scholarship to Northern State.

The final competitions are set for December 5 (virtual) and December 6 (in person). All finalists and award winners will give an elevator pitch for their business idea at the Awards Ceremony at Northern State University. The Awards Ceremony is open to the public and will feature keynote speaker John T. Meyer, co-founder of Lemonly and Executive Director of Leadership South Dakota. John and will share the stories and memories of his own entrepreneurial journey in his presentation, “Better Every Day - Stories of Grit, Growth, and Glory”.

Since inception in 2007, the BIG Idea Competition has received over 3,400 entries involving 4,750 students from 135 schools in 19 states. The competition is open to all high school students. The winning entries in 2022 were Feldy’s Ice Cream, by Noah Felderman of Doland High School (in state) and Mathex by Stefan Neuber of Windsor (CA) High School (out of state). A complete listing of the 2022 finalists can be found on the BIG Idea website along with a video of their elevator pitches. Questions regarding the competitions can be directed to Kelly Weaver of the Small Business Development Center at (605) 698-7654 x 144 or

The competition is organized BIG Idea, Inc. and the Small Business Development Center and supported by a broad based committee of economic development organizations, educational institutions, and private businesses.


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