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Business plan competition comes to San Juan College through Hawk Tank program

Virtual information session will be offered next week

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Fort Lewis College alum Anthony Martin pitches his business plan for an international and cultural mountain bike tour operation to the Hawk Tank committee at the college in 2019.
  • The Hawk Tank program began at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in 2016, and is expanding to San Juan College this spring.
  • The program is modeled after the Emmy-winning "Shark Tank" reality television series that has aired on ABC since 2009.
  • Teams of San Juan College students and high school students from throughout the area are eligible to take part in the competition.

FARMINGTON — An online presentation introducing a new San Juan College program designed to encourage and reward young entrepreneurs will take place next week.

The virtual Hawk Tank Kick Off Information Session will be offered at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26. The presentation will focus on the launch of the Hawk Tank program at the college, which is an initiative through which budding entrepreneurs compete against each other for start-up funding.

The Hawk Tank program began at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in 2016, and is expanding to San Juan College this spring through a partnership of the two institutions. The program is modeled after the Emmy-winning "Shark Tank" reality television series that has aired on ABC since 2009.

Fort Lewis College alum Anthony Martin and student Bella Sage hold oversize copies of checks after winning the 2019 Hawk Tank competition at the college.

Teams of San Juan College students and high school students from throughout the area are eligible to take part in the competition, which calls for them to present their ideas for new businesses to judges. The college teams will compete for a cash prize of up to $5,000, while the high school teams will compete for scholarships.

The winning San Juan College team will advance to the next round of competition, where it will face the winning team from Fort Lewis College. The team that wins that round will receive another $5,000 for a total of $10,000 in startup funding for its fledgling business.

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Officials at both colleges are excited about the possibilities the expansion of the Hawk Tank program to San Juan College offers students from throughout the region. But they are perhaps even more enthusiastic about the spirit of cooperation that is being built between their two institutions and the likelihood that their partnership will result in other joint ventures soon.

Michael Valdez

"There's a lot of cross pollination," Michael Valdez, associate professor of management at FLC and co-director of the Hawk Tank program, said, describing the logic of the two institutions embarking on a partnership. "There are a lot of instructors who teach at both San Juan College and Fort Lewis College. We have all these connections, but for some reason, we just haven't gotten traction (on previous efforts to mount joint programs)."

The Hawk Tank could be the catalyst that changes all that, officials at both colleges say. Steve Elias, dean of the College of Business Administration at FLC, said the momentum began building two years ago when he and other members of his faculty traveled to Farmington to meet with San Juan College President Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass for what he assumed was going to a quick get-to-know-you session. That anticipated one-hour meeting turned into a four-and-a-half-hour brainstorming session about how the two institutions could join forces and begin working together.

Exporting the Hawk Tank program south to San Juan College was the logical place to start. The final pieces fell into place last fall when Eddy Rawlinson joined San Juan College as its dean of the School of Business and Information Technology. Rawlinson became an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, and he, Elias and Valdez decided to launch the Hawk Tank at San Juan College this spring despite the less-than-ideal state of the economy.

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"This year all the stars aligned," Valdez said, laughing. "I know a lot of people think that's crazy — who grows a program during a pandemic? Well, Fort Lewis College and San Juan College."

Eddy Rawlinson

Rawlinson said the initial reception to the idea among his faculty members and students has been very positive.

"I think it's going to be exciting. There's already been a lot of discussion about it," he said, adding that San Juan College plans on marketing the new program aggressively through its website, fliers and social media.

"The pebble's been dropped, and now we're part of that," he said. "I want to see those waves grow."

FLC officials were eager to grow the Hawk Tank beyond their own campus and recognized that San Juan College was the obvious first step in that plan, Elias said.

"Our goal is to have Hawk Tank be the premier business plan competition in the Four Corners states," he said. "This is the first step toward that reality."

Valdez said the Hawk Tank has been successful at FLC partly because it casts a wide net.

"Almost 50% of our students (who participate) are nonbusiness students," he said, adding that his school also has a thriving mentorship program of alums and local businesspeople to help students flesh out their ideas.

Steve Elias

Valdez said 320 people have submitted more than 170 submissions to the FLC Hawk Tank program over the years, with teams consisting of up to five people.

Rawlinson said he doesn't have any idea what kind of participation the Hawk Tank at San Juan College will see in its initial phase, but he believes the program is likely to generate some buzz.

"When students talk to each other about their experiences they've had, that's some of the best advertising we can get," he said, adding that he hopes to see students studying such disciplines as art and music begin to think of ways to monetize their skills and develop business plans that reflect that.

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The kickoff session can be viewed online at https://fortlewis.zoom.us/j/97738196633. Free virtual workshops for those interested in Hawk Tank also will be offered, including "Marking Your Business Ideas a Reality 101," "Legal Concerns and Issues," "Market Analysis and Revenue Forecasting," "Revenue, Costs, Cash and Capital" and "Pitching Your Business Ideas."

More information can be found online at sanjuancollege.edu/hawktank, or by emailing Rawlinson at rawlinsone@sanjuancollege.edu or Valdez at mevaldez@fortlewis.edu.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.