University News

CBT Stafford Challenge Set to Launch at WIU

November 1, 2021

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Western Illinois University undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates (within two years) have the opportunity to develop a proposal for a profit-generating business venture as part of the WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT) Stafford Challenge, created by 1993 WIU Accountancy Graduate David Stafford.

According to CBT Dean Craig Conrad, The Stafford Challenge is designed to energize the competitive spirit and challenge participants to combine their knowledge, research and creativity to identify and develop real-world business ventures. A $5,000 prize, funded by Stafford, will be awarded to any invested idea.

Stafford is an operating director of Baylink Capital and a managing partner of AV Smart Solutions in Kirkland, WA. He is a member of President Guiyou Huang's National Advisory Council.

The Challenge

Participants must identify and develop an initial proposal for converting a 65-acre parcel of land in Knox County (IL) into a profit-generating, value-added business venture. The acreage, which includes 15 acres of tillable land, is located one mile from Oak Run, a lake-centered residential development with 2,600 lots, a clubhouse and golf course.

"Our investor group wants to identify novel and unique ways to create a significant cash flow from the property," Stafford explained. "WIU prepared me well for my career, and I want to give current students and recent graduates the opportunity to use what they've learned in the classroom in a real world business venture proposal."

Challenge Information

All commercially viable ideas are encouraged. The challenge is open to all WIU undergraduate and graduate students, as well as WIU alumni who have graduated in the past two years. Team submissions are allowed, and submissions must assume that up to $1 million in capital exists to execute a plan.

Entries will be evaluated on the proposal's viability, novelty and alignment with the investor group's return-on-investment objectives. All submissions become the intellectual property of Conch Shell Investments, LLC.

"The Stafford Challenge engages WIU students in a uniquely entrepreneurial way and allows students to apply both their creativity and business acumen to a real world investment opportunity," said CBT Dean Craig Conrad. "We are thankful for support from alumni like Mr. Stafford."


For more information on The Stafford Challenge, including proposal guidelines, visit or email

All entries must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2022.

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