Display photo for the Stafford Challenge from Western Illinois University's website

AV Smart Solutions’ David Stafford Hosts the Stafford Challenge

Date Posted:

December 22, 2021

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Western Illinois University (WIU) has organized the Stafford Challenge.

What is the Stafford Challenge all about? First, it’s for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those who’ve graduated within the past two years. Next, they must create a proposal for a profit-generating business venture. 

The challenge is part of the WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT), and WIU accountancy graduate David Stafford created it in 1993. Stafford is a managing partner of AV Smart Solutions, an operating director of Baylink Capital and a member of President Guiyou Huang’s National Advisory Council. 

Stafford designed the Stafford Challenge to spark ambition in participants who are willing to combine their knowledge, creativity and research to develop a realistic business venture. 

The deadline to apply for the Stafford Challenge is Jan. 31, 2022. Stafford personally rewards $5,000 to the winner of the invested idea.

About the Stafford Challenge

So, how does the Stafford Challenge work?

Participants looking to take up the challenge must develop an initial proposal on how to convert a 65-acre piece of land in Knox County, Illinois, into a profit-generating business venture — while adding value to the property.

Fifteen of the 65 acres are tillable land, meaning people can productively farm it. The entire plot is about one mile from the Oak Run, a residential development with 2,600 lots, a golf course and a clubhouse. All these structures surround a lake. 

“Our investor group wants to identify novel and unique ways to create a significant cash flow from the property,” Stafford explains. “WIU prepared me well for my career, and I want to give current students and recent graduates the opportunity to use what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world business venture proposal.”

Evaluation and Reward

Furthermore, the Stafford Challenge allows submissions from teams as well as single participants. The winner receives a maximum of $1 million from Conch Shell Investments, LLC to fund the plan. 

Conch Shell Investments is a Washington State-based investor group that Stafford runs. The winning submission becomes the investment group’s intellectual property.

So, how does the challenge select a winner? The challenge evaluates entry proposals based on three factors:

  1. Their novelty
  2. Their viability
  3. Their ability to align with Conch Shell’s return on investment objectives

“The Stafford Challenge engages WIU students in a uniquely entrepreneurial way and allows students to apply both their creativity and business acumen to a real-world investment opportunity,” states Craig Conrad, dean of CBT. “We are thankful for support from alumni like Mr. Stafford.”

Submission Requirements for the Stafford Challenge

To apply, interested applicants must be a WIU undergrad, must be a WIU grad student or must have graduated within the past two years. Then, they must submit these items:

  • A business proposal (up to seven pages) including the project’s initial investment and startup costs, a five-year financial projection and supporting market research (possibly as an appendix)
  • A video pitch (a maximum of five minutes long) explaining the written business proposal 

Interested? Upload your video to Google Drive, and then get a shareable file link. Send both the link with your video and written proposal via email to submissions@gorzo.com by Jan. 31, 2022.

Learn More About the Stafford Challenge

If you’d like to learn more about the Stafford Challenge and its guidelines, visit WIU’s website.

You can also contact AV Smart Solutions. We’re happy to help! Call (425) 655-5052, or complete our inquiry form.

Featured image via WIU’s Stafford Challenge web page

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