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Graves Business Plan Competition 

The Graves Business Plan Competition offers University of Tennessee, Knoxville students enrolled in undergraduate and master’s degree programs the opportunity to win start-up capital for an original business idea. Prizes are awarded for first, second, and third place in two business categories: growth and lifestyle.

First place: $5,000
Second place: $3,000
Third place: $2,000

The three-round competition takes place each spring and fall semester.

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In general, any student in an undergraduate or master's degree program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is eligible to apply. Complete eligibility details available online. Specifically: 

  • Students can apply individually or as a team.
  • Teams can choose up to four members to present. All members must be students.
  • Presenting team members must be enrolled in full-time undergraduate or master's degree programs.
  • Previous winners cannot compete in consecutive semesters with the same business plan. Previous winners must use a different business plan to compete in consecutive semesters.



The Graves Business Plan Competition will accept applications each fall and spring semester. To apply, complete and submit the online application form. A sample PDF of the spring 2020 application form is available. Final applications must be submitted via the online form in order to be considered for competition. After preliminary review by the judging panel, invitations to present in the first round will be issued.

Apply Online


Student Financial Advisors

Students majoring in finance and accounting are eligible to apply for student financial advisor roles. These students will have the opportunity to consult and advise an early-stage student startup in the financial portions of their presentations. Student financial advisors will be matched with start-up teams during the competition. Once paired with a team, the student financial advisor will be eligible for prizes based on their team’s advancement in the competition. Advisors are responsible for meeting with their team prior to compeition and attending their team’s pitch during competition. Student financial advisor prizes are awarded to advisors whose teams win first, second and third in both the growth and lifestyle categories. The student financial advisor program and schedule is subject to change based on availability of participants.

Student Financial Advisor Awards

  • First place: $300
  • Second place: $200
  • Third place: $100

Student Financial Advisor Applications

The Graves Business Plan Competition accepts student financial advisor applications throughout the fall and spring semesters. To apply for a student financial advisor role, fill out and submit the application form.

    Student Financial Advisor Eligibility

    Applicants must be a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student enrolled in an undergraduate or master's accounting or finance program. Undergraduate students must be considered a senior or junior by academic standing. 

    Our Benefactors

    In 2016, anonymous donors made a donation to endow the Undergraduate Business Plan Competition in honor of Tom Graves. The competition was renamed the Graves Business Plan Competition in 2017. Graves has managed the program since its inception in 2008. Read more about this generous dedication.