Turning class final into cash prize

  Thursday, December 7, 2023
  Community, Academics

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – DEC. 7, 2023 – UTRGV students in the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship (RCVCOBE) will have a chance at prize money and an opportunity to showcase what they have learned this semester, during the Fall 2023 Battle of the Brands competition on Friday, Dec. 8.  

The Market Lab program in the UTRGV Center for Innovation & Commercialization (CIC) hosts the competition as the final element of a semester-long experience where students work closely with local entrepreneurs to develop deliverables that will be used by local businesses. 

The program and competition, to be held from 1-4 p.m. in Weslaco at the CIC, 307 E. Railroad St., have taken experiential learning to a new level for RCVCOBE students.

The program currently collaborates with RCVCOBE professors, and as part of the competition, 10 teams (about 50 students) will be selected to compete as finalists in the Battle of the Brands.

The winning teams will receive an “A” in their final project, and also will take home a cash prize of up to $1,500.   

“This program is truly a win/win for our talented students and ambitious entrepreneurs. Our students can take advantage of experiential learning at its best, gaining invaluable knowledge and skills,” said Laurie Simmons, director of the UTRGV Center for Innovation & Commercialization.

“In the process, our entrepreneurs also receive valuable market research, marketing plans, financial strategies and business plans to help them successfully start, run, or scale their businesses to maximum potential.” 

The goal of the Market Lab program is to introduce students to the fundamentals of market research and competitive analysis, and to provide the tools and guidance necessary for crafting their business plans. The Market Lab forges strategic partnerships with university professors, fostering immersive learning experiences that seamlessly integrate local businesses into the classroom setting.  

Persephonie Martinez, CIC program coordinator and author of the program, was inspired to create the program after being challenged by Simmons to come up with a way to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct market research.  

“A concerning reality is that 90% of startups don't make it past their early years, and among these, 35% fail because there isn't enough demand for their product or service. It underscores the vital importance of entrepreneurs researching their market before fully committing to their business, preventing them from discovering too late that their venture may not be sustainable,” Martinez said.

“The Market Lab program seeks to address that gap,” she said, “and through effective market research, startups greatly enhance their chances of success and gain the necessary tools to develop crucial elements like marketing plans, financial projections, and business plans for their ventures.”  

What started with Martinez guiding a small class of five entrepreneurs through the basics of market research has evolved into a robust collaboration involving four professors, 30 entrepreneurs, and more than 200 UTRGV students.  

“I am so proud of what the Market Lab has become, and the Battle of the Brands is the perfect way to wrap up an amazing semester,” Martinez said. “I love seeing the incredible potential of UTRGV’s marketing students at our exciting competition.”  

For more information, contact Kanea MacDonald, CIC communications coordinator, at kanea.macdonald01@utrgv.edu 

UTRGV students, local entrepreneurs and competition judges at the Spring 2023 Battle of the Brands held in Weslaco.
UTRGV students, local entrepreneurs and competition judges at the Spring 2023 Battle of the Brands held in Weslaco. (Courtesy Photo)


The Center for Innovation & Commercialization is the UTRGV’s own Blackstone LaunchPad. This center seeks to promote economic growth in the Rio Grande Valley by assisting regional entrepreneurs in the ideation, development, and acceleration of new business ventures and by developing the next generation of RGV entrepreneurs through experiential learning opportunities in new venture creation for students. Upcoming opportunities for students and local entrepreneurs include the Big Idea Competition Finale on October 18, the Lunch & Learn Entrepreneur Speaker Series beginning October 19 and continuing through the following three Thursdays, and the Business Plan Competition coming Spring 2024.  


The Blackstone LaunchPad network makes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills accessible and relevant for all college students to help them build thriving companies and careers. We work with higher-ed institutions to deliver proven startup resources, facilitate access to a global network of mentors and advisors, and offer unique virtual and physical convening opportunities so thousands of diverse college students can go further, faster. Students learn by doing, gaining knowledge and critical skills to help them succeed as a founder or contributor to the innovation economy. LaunchPad’s ever-expanding network encompasses campuses with predominantly underrepresented populations. 

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The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.