PASSHE Business Plan Competition

Clarion University Graduate Wins $5,000 to Grow Existing Business

The sixth annual Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Student Business Plan Competition (completed on April 5, 2017) attracted the interest of 203 student teams from across the statewide system. Prizes ranged from $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place given to a student or group of students to be used for the start-up funds for their business. A total of 109 venture profiles from students across the PASSHE universities were submitted. Clarion University had five students compete, with two students selected as part of the 17 semi-finalists. From the semi-finalist pool, seven students/teams were selected as finalists. As one of the seven finalists, Bri Nellis, a 2016 Clarion University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and a Minor in marketing competed against six other teams for one of the top three prizes. Ms. Nellis was awarded 2nd place in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Student Business Plan Competition and is the third student from Clarion University to be awarded one of the top three prizes in the six year history of the competition. Bri’s business, Bri Nellis Photography, offers sports, portrait, and commercial WinnerBriphotography services. She plans to use the prize money to grow her business by expanding into the Pittsburgh market as well as offer drone photography/videography services.

Austin Blose was recognized as a semi-finalist with his submission for a fitness/workout facility. Austin is a senior at Clarion University, majoring in business management. The ceremony was attended by many prominent officials in the State System of Higher Education.

All Clarion students were introduced to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) services through direct interaction with Clarion University SBDC consultants and student interns. This resulted in the development of formal business plans that were submitted to initial reviews and an evaluation process administered by PASSHE Economic Development representatives. Tracy Reinsel, Coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Center (ELC) and Cindy Nellis, Director of the Clarion University SBDC served in this capacity. After the initial review, each venture profile and student presentation was judged by a group of professionals representing various entrepreneurial interest areas. The result of their judging narrowed the field down to the top seven finalists, with Bri Nellis representing Clarion University. Funding for the program and awards were made possible through support from the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Foundation, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, East Stroudsburg University Center of Research and Economic Development, Marathon Studios, Inc., and MVM Associates. Finalists were honored at an awards ceremony held at The Dixon Center. A total of $17,500 was awarded to the top three teams to be used for initiation and/or expansion of the entrepreneurial ventures.

The seventh annual PASSHE Business Plan Competition will begin in May of 2017. Students continue interactions with the Clarion University Small Business Development Center and the Clarion University Entrepreneurial Leadership Center to develop and refine their innovation ideas and business plans. 

For more information on the PASSHE Business Competition visit