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AV Smart Solutions’ David Stafford Hosts the Stafford Challenge
Display photo for the Stafford Challenge from Western Illinois University's website

Western Illinois University (WIU) has organized the Stafford Challenge for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those who have graduated within the past two years, to create a proposal for a profit-generating business venture. 

The challenge is part of the WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT) and was created by WIU Accountancy graduate David Stafford 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. 

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

The deadline to apply for the Stafford Challenge is January 31, 2022. David Stafford will be personally rewarding $5,000 to the winner of the invested idea.

What Is the Stafford Challenge?

Participants looking to partake in 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.

Out of the 65 acres, 15 are tillable land, meaning it can be productively farmed. The entire plot is about one mile adjacent to the Oak Run, a residential development holding 2,600 lots, a golf course, and club house all centered around 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  

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

Conch Shell Investments is a Washington state-based investor group run by David Stafford, who is also the organizer of the Stafford Challenge. The winning submission will become the intellectual property of the investment group.

Entry proposals are evaluated based on the following:

  1. Their novelty
  2. Their viability
  3. Their ability to align with the Conch Shell’s return on investment (ROI) objective goals

“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, the CBT Dean. “We are thankful for support from alumni like Mr. Stafford.”

Submission Requirements for the Stafford Challenge

In order to apply, interested applicants (must be a WIU undergrad student, WIU graduate student, or have graduated within the past two years) will need to submit the following:

  • A business proposal (up to seven pages) that includes the project’s initial investment and start-up costs, a five-year financial projection, and supporting market research (possibly as an appendix)
  • A video pitch (a maximum of five minutes in length) that explains the written business proposal 

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

Sign Up or Learn More About the Stafford Challenge

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

You can also contact AV Smart Solutions by calling +1 (425) 655-5052 or completing the contact form below for more information.


Featured image via WIU’s Stafford Challenge web page