Aaron Rerucha, a senior horticulture major, won the first-ever Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program Business Plan Competition on Dec. 6. Rerucha, from David City, took home the $4,000 grand prize. Jordyn Lechtenberg, a senior agribusiness major in the Engler Program, took runner-up and was awarded $1,000.
The Business Plan Competition, held in the Law College auditorium, was a first for the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program that aims to support and encourage entrepreneurship among UNL students. Located in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this program was created thanks to the support of the Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation.
The two-day competition featured agribusiness-oriented business plans only. Ten out of 20 applicants were selected to compete in a rigorous semi-final round Dec. 3. Rerucha and Lechtenberg were chosen to move on to the finals Dec. 6.
Each student presented plans for 10 minutes then took questions for 10 minutes from a panel of judges in both series of competitions. There were two panels of judges for the semi-final round. Robin Coulter of Coulter Ranches, John Miller of Oxbow Animal Health, and Ed Pallesen of Goldman-Sachs made up the first panel. Judges for the second-panel included Todd Johnson,of the Big Plate; Jonathan Jank, Seward County Economic Development; Jerry Lentfer, First State Bank Nebraska; Dave Stock, Stock Seed Farms; Rick Stock, Cargill Animal Nutrition; and Terence Bowden, business accelerator director, Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Rerucha’s business plan involved a landscape company—Oxbows Natural Landscapes—focusing on native, historic, and natural elements with an emphasis on reducing water usage in the environment and still providing functional spaces. His plan included furniture making in the winter months, harvested from trees on the land in which he would operate his business just south of Columbus, near Bellwood, Neb.
Judges for Friday night’s final were Laura Ward, senior managing director of First Republic Securities Company in San Francisco and Andrew Uden, graduate student at UNL and business owner of Uden Cattle Company.
Rerucha, who is advised by Department of Agronomy and Horticulture associate professor Kim Todd, is currently enrolled in HORT 488 as a distance education student. The class, taught by professor David Lambe, is a business plan writing class focusing on student ideas and entrepreneurship where Lambe encourages his students to compete in on-campus business plan competitions.
Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, said they plan to hold the event annually.