HSUEC Competition Guide

[Page updated: 10-12-23]

Overview (2023-24)

The High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge (HSUEC) is a competition designed to introduce and encourage high school students to explore innovation and entrepreneurship. Winners take home cash and scholarships. HSUEC is the high school version of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, one of the largest collegiate competitions in the country. Utah is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, and we believe that some of the best ideas come from teens across the state. All high school students (or those ages 14-18 years old) throughout Utah may participate.

Students are encouraged to form teams and create a business proposal based on an innovative idea. The team’s submitted presentation should include the following: a problem, a proposed solution, a targeted audience/customer and a physical prototype. After business ideas have been submitted, the first round of judging will take place online. Finalists, which will be announced online, will be invited to showcase their business ideas at the final event and pitch to a panel of prestigious judges. There is no restriction on the number of teams per school or community that can apply, compete and advance to the final round. Teams may not consist of more than five students, but there is no limit to the number of ideas a team can submit.

  • Application Opens Online: Sept. 18, 2023, noon
  • Online Information Sessions: Nov. 1, Dec. 6, and Jan. 3 at 4-5 pm.
  • Application Deadline: Jan. 16, 2024, 11:59 p.m.
  • Online Judging Starts: Jan. 18, 2024, noon
  • Online Judging Ends: Jan. 31, 2024, 11:59 p.m.
  • Top 20 Finalists Announced: Feb. 1, 2024, 5 p.m.
  • Top 20 Orientation: TBD
  • Public Online Voting Starts: Feb. 6, 2024
  • Public Online Voting Ends: March 1, 2024, 11:59 p.m.
  • Competition Final Event: March 2, 2024

Any Utah resident who is in high school or ages 14-18 can participate in the challenge. Successful teams need members who are enthusiastic about an idea and are curious about how to develop an idea into a marketable product or business. Teams should be student led and willing to work together on all aspects of the competition. Company formation is not a requirement to enter the challenge, but competitors are welcome and encouraged to take their idea to the next level. This competition is intended to help students think of business/product ideas and to see how successful they would be in the real world.

A team may provide more than one idea; however, each business idea should be submitted separately. Teams can include up to 5 members, but individuals aren’t required to have a team.

The age limit is strictly enforced. Students younger than 14 may not participate. Students ages 14-18 who have graduated high school or are enrolled full-time in college courses are unable to participate in this competition. These students are encouraged to participate in the collegiate Utah Entrepreneur Challenge also hosted by the Lassonde Institute. More details can be found at lassonde.utah.edu/uec.

NOTE: Rules and exceptions are up to the discretion of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and its representatives. Submission content must be appropriate for the student, judge, sponsor, and volunteer audience. Inappropriate content will result in disqualification. Direct any questions about eligibility to lassonde@utah.edu.


Guidelines for Business Idea Proposal

The proposal should address four key components:

  1. Describe the opportunity or problem your idea addresses.
  2. Explain the solution or improvement your idea provides for the opportunity or problem addressed.
  3. Elaborate on the market that your idea or product is in. What sets you apart from your competitors? Who is your target consumer?
  4. Using any medium, create a prototype of what your idea, product, or service will look like.


Each proposal must answer the specifications found on the online application form (available at lassonde.utah.edu/hsuec). Every business idea will have 200 words each to describe the problem, solution and consumer market. They will have the additional requirement of creating a seven-word pitch describing their product. Each team will also have to provide relevant contact information.


Each business idea needs a prototype. A successful prototype does not need to be expensive or perfect. However, it needs to clearly demonstrate how the product or idea would help solve the identified problem. If the project proposal improves a product that is already made, explicitly show how the changes made will affect the efficacy of the product.

A prototype can be (but isn’t limited to) an app, website, technology, machinery, cardboard example or a sketch. Prototypes will range greatly depending on the team’s idea.

In the initial online submission, since the prototype cannot be viewed in person, teams can fully describe the prototype and are encouraged to use diagrams and pictures to demonstrate how it works.

Finalists Additional Application

After the first round of online applications, the top 20 teams will be announced as the HSUEC Finalists. These teams will need to create the following presentations:

PowerPoint Presentation

This presentation will be used by the team when they present to the panel of judges at the final event. Each team will need to have 5 minutes of presentation material (covering the four business components) and be prepared to answer 5 minutes of questions from the judges. There is no limit on the number of slides; however, teams will be cut off once time is up, regardless of the content they have covered.

Tabling Presentation

At the final event, finalists will present their business idea to the public during our competition showcase. Details about this presentation will be provided closer to the event date.

A panel of community leaders, college entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, bankers, accountants and inventors will judge the student business ideas submitted. Judges will evaluate the submission based on the four business idea components. They will be looking for the following:

  1. How clearly is a problem or opportunity identified?
  2. Is a solution described to meet the opportunity or solve the identified problem?
  3. Is a customer identified for the proposed solution or idea, and is there a clear amount of how many will be positively impacted by the idea?
  4. How clearly does the prototype illustrate the idea or business?

Judging Rounds

Round 1

The first round of judging will occur online and will be solely based on the application submitted by each team (see timeline for details). Each team will be awarded scores according to the four business idea components as stated above. The top twenty teams will be announced as the finalists of HSUEC and will advance to the next stage.

Round 2

The second round for finalists will include an online vote that is open to the public. (see timeline for details). In this stage, finalists are competing for the Top Online Vote, which will be announced at the final event. Finalists are welcome to spread the word and invite as many as they would like to participate in the public voting.

Round 3

The third round of judging takes place at the final event at the University of Utah. Finalists will have 5 minutes to present to a panel of judges and 5 minutes to answer the questions posed by the panel. They will be judged on the four business components, as well as their prototype and ability to address the questions asked.

Additional judging will take place at the HSUEC Showcase at Lassonde Studios after the presentations to the panel of judges. Each team will set up a tabling presentation and the public will vote to determine the “People’s Choice Award.”

The final event will include the following:

Welcome and Event Orientation: A virtual orientation for the top 20 student teams will take place over Zoom (see timeline for details). The session will be recorded for those unable to attend.

Final Judging: Each team will have a time randomly assigned to them to present. Each team must be punctual to their assigned judging room. Event coordinators will usher the teams in and out of the room and will assist with any audiovisual components of each presentation.

Awards Ceremony: An awards ceremony will be held at Lassonde Studios. More details will be provided to all finalists.

In the 2023-24 competition season, all teams can compete for the following awards:

  • 1st Place — $10,000
  • 2nd Place — $5,000
  • 3rd Place — $2,500
  • Top Online Vote Award — $500
  • Event Awards for each team chosen as a finalist — $100 to each team
  • Lassonde Founders Program Scholarships — Up to 10 awards, each with a $1,000 Lassonde Studios housing scholarship

Tax & Financial Aid Implications

Payment for winning a competition or being a top performer is not a scholarship or fellowship; instead, it is a prize or award and is given without stipulation as to how it must be used. Prizes of this nature may be taxable to the recipient, but are not considered wages even if the student is employed by the university. If certain dollar thresholds are satisfied, the university will report the prize or award to the IRS and the student on IRS Form 1099-Misc, Miscellaneous Income, or on IRS Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s US Source Income Subject to Withholding. Tax Services will work with the student to make appropriate tax withholdings and may require the student to complete a W-9 Form.

Tax Implications for International Students

International students are advised to meet with Tax Services to determine their tax status for income and or scholarship awards: fbs.admin.utah.edu/tax-services/appointment-with-tax-specialist/. A tax specialist can help you fill out the applicable form(s) so you are taxed appropriately, if at all. The base requirements to be eligible for any tax treaties are: F-1 visa holders (international students attending an academic program or English language program at a US college or university) and have a social security number or taxpayer identification number. If a tax treaty is in place, Tax Services will have the student complete U.S. Form 8233, Exemption from Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of a nonresident alien individual. The tax implications are different for J-1 visa holders (exchange visitor program); otherwise, you may need to complete the IRS Form 1042-S: irs.gov/uac/About-Form-1042S. Once again, please meet with a tax specialist and they will help you determine which form applies to your visa status.

Financial Aid Implications for Students

In addition, payments made by the university to students must also be considered for financial aid implications, as they comprise financial assistance given by the university to the student (NASFAA Monograph 24, Appendix D). For University of Utah students, the Lassonde Institute will report your prize as a miscellaneous award in the central scholarship system. The miscellaneous award is a placeholder for financial aid purposes only, not a means for disbursement. You should also contact the Financial Aid Office by either email (financialaid@sa.utah.edu) or by calling 801-581-6211, and speak with a financial aid counselor to understand the implications that accepting this award may have on your financial aid.

The University of Utah may award a prize to a student not currently attending the University of Utah. In this case, it is the student’s responsibility to report the receipt of the prize to their institution, as the Department of Education considers this to be an outside resource, and must be counted as financial assistance. We encourage students to speak with a Financial Aid counselor at their institution if they have any questions or concerns regarding the acceptance of this prize or award. Each participant must indicate that they have read and understand this information on the Award Distribution Form.

Part II Certification of Citizenship Found on W9 (see below)

This MUST be reviewed prior to signing. If you are unable to certify after review please contact Alicia Vess at alicia.vess@utah.edu. Your award will be distributed differently if you cannot certify.

HSUEC is designed to assist high school students in developing their entrepreneurial skills by helping them build a business idea and compete against other student teams for prizes. Because HSUEC is a student competition, the student(s) must be at the core of the submitted business idea and must play the major role in formulating the presentation.

HSUEC is a student business idea competition and is based on the work of students. Parents, mentors and coaches have the unique opportunity to cultivate strong learning opportunities by supporting student-driven work.

As a competitor, you are responsible for protecting any information concerning your plan that you share with advisors, team members and fellow participants of the competition. HSUEC takes no responsibility for unwanted disclosure in these instances.

Contestants should be careful about disclosing information concerning proprietary concepts. Competitors concerned about the protection of intellectual property may research intellectual property protection at the University of Utah Marriott Library or other libraries.

Neither the HSUEC nor the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute takes any ownership in an idea or plan as part of the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.

Contact Information

High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge
c/o Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute
University of Utah
105 Fort Douglas Blvd., Bldg. #604
Salt Lake City, UT 84113

Email: lassonde@utah.edu

Phone: 801-587-3836

2023-24 Student Leadership

  • Logan Bogesvang, HSUEC director
  • Sadie Bowen, HSUEC co-chair
  • Eliasib Paredes-Bautista, HSUEC co-chair