Undergraduate and graduate teams from the University of Central Oklahoma celebrated success at the Oklahoma Love’s Entrepreneur Cup Business Plan Competition, taking home second- and third-place finishes and prize money totaling $22,000 at the event held in Oklahoma City in April.

Undergraduate team at the Love’s Entrepreneur Cup Business Plan Competition. From left, Maurice Haff, Dillon Koense, Nasir Malik, Yusuf Shurbaji and Robert Epstein.

The annual contest is a statewide collegiate entrepreneurial competition, sponsored by Oklahoma-based Innovation to Enterprise (i2E), that simulates the real-world process of researching a market, writing a business plan and making a presentation to potential investors. Teams are encouraged to use prize money and other opportunities provided by i2E to continue product development and start a company.

“The Love’s Cup Business Plan Competition affords UCO students from many disciplines an opportunity to interact with each other and together to apply themselves as a competitive team in competition with the best in Oklahoma,” said Robert Epstein, Ph.D., professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Central’s College of Business.

“Their hard work goes beyond what they win at the competition, because they have gained lifelong business, technical and communication skills.”

Central’s undergraduate team, Toucan Pay, took second place in the High Growth Undergraduate Division.

The team will now advance to the Tri-State Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Business Plan Competition, set for May 30-31 in Las Vegas, to compete against teams from Arkansas and Nevada.

Toucan Pay is a software platform, for creating digital prepaid cards, that safely pulls funds from multiple sources.

Team members include team leader Yusuf Shurbaji, a senior strategic communications major from Ardmore, Oklahoma; Nasir Malik, a sophomore software engineering major from Ardmore, Oklahoma; and Dillion Koense, a junior international business and finance major from Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“This experience has truly been transformational because it is so hands on. I have gained skills and know-how which will last a lifetime,” Shurbaji said.

Central’s graduate team, Turning Systems, LLC, placed third in the High Growth Graduate Division.

Turning Systems, LLC provides a solution based on research by Jicheng Fu, Ph.D., associate professor in Central’s College of Mathematics and Science. Turning Systems is purposed to dramatically lower the occurrence of Hospital Acquired Pressure Injuries in clinical care settings, significantly reducing health care provider risk and total cost of treatment, while improving both patient care and comfort.

Graduate team members include team leader Jordan Powers, an MBA student from Oklahoma City; Fang Li, an applied mathematics and computer science graduate student from Kaifeng, China; Caroline Shii, a senior nursing major from Oklahoma City; Robert Simon, a senior management major from Edmond, Oklahoma; and Blake Toves, a freshman management major from Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Graduate team at the Oklahoma Love’s Entrepreneur Cup Business Plan Competition. From left, Maurice Haff, Blake Toves, Caroline Shii, Jordan Powers, Robert Simon and Robert Epstein, Ph.D.

Though the graduate team did not advance to the Tri-State Cup, they will continue to develop their product and hope to raise additional funding in the future.

“Working alongside our dedicated faculty, these UCO students, from across university disciplines, successfully competed together, representing Central’s focus on interdisciplinary and transformative learning,” said UCO President Don Betz.

“We are proud for our students and faculty, as they continue to showcase their talents and dedication at the highest levels.”

Epstein, along with Maurice Haff, instructor of entrepreneurship and innovation for Central’s College of Business and a U.S. patent agent, serve as faculty advisers for both teams.