Getting Started/Creating an Account FAQ’S

Can I participate if I’m not in the United States?

Unfortunately, we do not accept entries out of the country at this time.

Do I have to be a South Dakota resident to participate in the competition?

No. It is open all students across the United States. However, if selected as a finalist, you must be available on the day of Final Competition to present your business idea to the judges in realy time. The Virtual Final Competition for students outside of South Dakota will be held via Zoom the day prior to the In Person Final Competition.

What do I do if my school’s name is not listed?

Each student and advisor must choose a school in their profile.  For Advisors, please use the contact form to email the name of your school and physical address and we will add it. For students, complete the school information form when prompted to have your school added.  We will contact you once it is added so you can complete your login.  To assure accuracy, this is manual process so please allow time for approval.  To allow processing time, requests to add a school should be received by 3pm on October 3oth.

Are students required to have an advisor?

Students are not required to have an advisor. When students create their login, they should choose Independent Study for the Advisor field if they are not working with an advisor.

What do I do if my advisor’s name is not listed?

If your advisor’s name does not appear, please ask your advisor to create an account and then be sure to choose them as your Advisor as soon as possible and BEFORE you submit your entry.

If submitting a team project, do all members need to create a login account?

No; only one team member needs to create an account. That team member will be able to add other team members to the entry once a draft of the entry has been saved.

Is there a limit on team size?

Yes. You can have up to three people on one team.

What do I do if I forget my password?

Click on “Forgot Your Password?” on the login page. You will be asked to enter your email and a new password will be sent to you.

What do I do if I have technical problems?

If you are experiencing technical difficulties, complete the form on the Contact Us page and we will email or call you back with a solution. If there are any additional questions you have about the BIG Idea Competition or Final Event, please reference the Rules and Student Checklist forms.

Entry FAQ’S

What is the deadline for the competition?

Completed entries and designs must be submitted by midnight, Central Standard Time on October 31.

What are the BIG Idea entry requirements?

Students must be in a high school or home school doing high school studies. The entry for the business idea is a written submission of no more than 1075 words, organized as follows:

Complete rules can be found on the Rules page under the Competition tab.

How do I find out what industry my business is in?

When you fill out your BIG Idea entry form, you will be asked to select an industry that best classifies your business. Please refer to the  North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to find what industry your business is in. You can view the document here. If you are still unsure, ask your advisor or take your best guess.

What is the purpose of the Reference section?

The BIG Idea Competition has always had a strong position against plagiarism; part of our mission is to spur creativity. Likewise, our judges are interested in knowing how students come up with their ideas. The Reference section allows  students to share what inspired their idea by listing any research, articles, personal experiences or other sources used in creating their entries while also giving appropriate credit to sources.  BIG Idea does not require a particular citation style but suggests URL’s for internet sources and title, author, date, publication for others.

How can I make sure my work is being saved while I’m working on my project?

Be sure to click “Save Draft” often while working on your project. You will be allowed a limited time period for your project to be left open on your computer before it times out. (NOTE: You will not be warned when your window is timed out.) If sharing a computer with another student, save your work and log out before the next student to log in so that your data is not overwritten. DO NOT open two browser windows to work on separate entries on the same computer.

What is plagiarism?

BIG Idea takes plagiarism very seriously. Below are 5 examples of plagiarism as defined by Scribbr. Where the definitions below reference ‘someone else’s’ words or ideas, keep in mind that this also means words or ideas generated by artificial intelligence tools.

“Plagiarism comes in many forms, some more severe than others—from rephrasing someone’s ideas without acknowledgement to stealing a whole essay. These are the five most common types of plagiarism:

  • Global plagiarism means passing off an entire text by someone else as your own work.
  • Verbatim plagiarism means directly copying someone else’s words.
  • Paraphrasing plagiarism means rephrasing someone else’s ideas to present them as your own.
  • Patchwork plagiarism means stitching together parts of different sources to create your text.
  • Self-plagiarism means recycling your own past work.”

What is the BIG Idea Competition’s plagiarism policy?

BIG Idea reserves the right to review all entries and disqualify from the competition any entries where plagiarism is found. Applicants will be required to state their references and confirm that their entry does not include plagiarism prior to submitting their entry.  Entries identified as potential finalists will be further reviewed with plagiarism/AI checking software.

How can I make sure that I have completed everything before my final submit?

The Student Checklist includes everything students need to do before submitting their final entry. Locate the checklist here.

Who is judging the entries?

The 1st round of judges include a mix of economic development professionals, business professionals, business owners, educators, and collegiate business students.

Will I get feedback on my BIG Idea submission?

Yes. You will receive an overall score and judges’ comments after the Final Competition in December. Feedback will be sent to your advisor or directly to you if you are an independent study student.

May a business idea be submitted that has been submitted to another competition?

Yes, in fact, we encourage it. The more feedback you can receive on your business concept, the better. However, if you were a finalist in a previous years’ BIG Idea competition, you cannot use the same business idea. You can compete with a new idea.

How can I compete for the $500 Wellness prize?

Your business concept must promote Wellness to enter this category. For the purposes of this competition,’Wellness’ is defined of being in good physical and mental heath. If your business idea fits in the Wellness Category, select Wellness in the dropdown box in the “Special Award Category’ section of the entry form.

How will BIG Idea determine the winner of the Wellness prize?

The top 10 finalists for this category will be determined by the scores from the first round of BIG Idea judging. Sanford Health’s panel of judges will then review those 10 entries and determine the winner of the $500 prize.

How can I compete for the $500 Agriculture Innovation prize?

Your business concept must promote Agriculture Innovation to enter this category. For the purposes of this competition, Agriculture Innovation is defined as an agriculture business that incorporates innovation, technology and/or leadership into agriculture or agriculture education. If your business idea fits in the Agriculture Innovation Category, select Agriculture Innovation in the dropdown box in the “Special Award Category’ section of the entry form. Must be a South Dakota student in order to participate.

How will BIG Idea determine the winner of the Agriculture Innovation prize?

The top 10 South Dakota finalists for this category will be determined by the scores from the first round of BIG Idea judging. The South Dakota Agriculture Foundation’s panel of judges will then review those 10 entries and determine the winner of the $500 prize. South Dakota students can only win this award.

How can I compete for the $500 Hometown Business prize?

Your business concept must promote Hometown Business to enter in this category. For the purposes of this competition, Hometown Business is defined as retail, hospitality, grocery, or trade business that has a physical storefront as well as an online presence (either selling or advertising online). If your business idea fits in the Hometown Business Category, select Hometown Business in the dropdown box in the “Special Award Category’ section of the entry form. This award can only be won by a South Dakota student.

How will BIG Idea determine the winner of the Hometown Business prize?

The top 10 in-state finalists for this category will be determined by the scores from the first round of BIG Idea judging. The panel of business owners representing the South Dakota Retailer’s Association will then review those 10 entries and determine the winner of the $500 prize.  In addition to the category definition, judges will also consider the viability of the business idea in a small community (5,000 population or less).

How can I compete for the $500 Makers Award prize?

For the purposes of this competition, the Makers Award is defined as a business concept that creates and builds a physical product, which could include a custom product built one at a time or a product that is made in larger quantities. Select Makers Award in the dropdown box in the “Special Award Category’ section of the entry form. Must be a South Dakota student in order to participate.

How will BIG Idea determine the winner of the Makers Award prize?

The top 10 in-state finalists for this category will be determined by the scores from the first round of BIG Idea judging.  Blackout Industries will then review those 10 entries and determine the winner of the $500 prize.

Marketing Design FAQ’s

How do I compete for the BIG Idea Marketing Design prize?

This prize requires the additional submission of a marketing piece which is a full page ad design with a logo which represents your company or product.
While optional, the Marketing Design Competition is NOT a stand-alone competition; students/teams must compete in the Business Idea Competition to be eligible to compete in the Marketing Design Competition. See Marketing Design Rules on the Rules Page or watch the How To Video: Marketing Design.

What are the specific requirements for the ad?

Advertisements are intended to attract people’s attention, engage them about your brand and product, and then invite them to do something. An ad must have a call to action, whether it be visit a store, call, email, or check out a website. Your marketing design piece should include the following items.

  1. Headline – A headline is typically what grabs attention. It speaks to your target audience and engages them with your message and picture. Never use your logo or business name as the main headline.
  2. Picture – The headline should relate in some way to a dominant picture, graphic, or illustration. This too will help attract attention to your ad. Your headline and picture should work together to capture attention.
  3. Subheadline – A subheadline adds a little more information to better connect with your target audience.
  4. Text – You should have a bit of text or bullet points that outline the unique selling point of your product. After your picture and headline has drawn a reader in, the text will help make the sale to those very interested, but don’t write too much. Keep it simple and short.
  5. Slogan – A slogan is nice to help differentiate your product from others.
  6. Logo – Your logo/company name should be used like a “sign off”, usually at the bottom of ads, but it can go other places. They are usually used in conjunction with a slogan, again to help define your unique product. Think simple, thing legible printing, and think of appropriate colors. Never use your logo as a headline, you will lose points for this.
  7. Contact Information – If a potential customer can’t contact you, you will miss out on sales. Include a phone number, a website, an email address, or a physical address. Make it easy for someone to reach you.
  8. Call to Action – Tell the viewer to do something after you have them interested in your product/service. They can call, stop into the store, make an appointment, or visit a website.
  9. Be Creative – Keep things simple, but experiment with different layout options, multiple photos, graphics, and text.
  10. Be Clear – Make sure people fully understand your product or service. Your ad should not leave any questions as to what you are selling and who may want it.

Sample ads showing these required elements can be found in the Marketing Design Guidelines document.

How will BIG Idea determine the winner of the Marketing Design prize?

A team of marketing professionals review and score the Marketing Design entries and choose the winner based on the rubric on the Rules page.  The judges reserve the right to not score marketing designs which do not include all the required elements.

What program should I use to create my poster?

You can use a variety of tools to create your marketing design. Feel free to use Word or Publisher to create your poster or utilize free online sources that make posters easy to create, like Canva. Talk to your teacher about creating a free Canva for Education account which protects your privacy.  For more information, view the Marketing Design Guidelines.

What file type do I use to upload my Marketing Design?

You may upload the file for the Marketing Design portion as a .PDF or .JPG file that does not exceed 2 MB in size.  Additional information about saving files in the appropriate format can be found in the Marketing Design section of the My Project page and at the Rules link above.

Can I enter the Marketing Design competition without creating a business idea?

No. In order to submit a marketing design, you must also submit the related business idea.

Final Event FAQ’S

When is the final competition?

Two final competition are planned.  The Virtual Final Competition for students outside of South Dakota will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.  The in person Final Competition and Awards Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at Northern State University.

How are the finalists determined?

There are 2 rounds in the BIG Idea competition.  Round 1 determines the finalists and Round 2 determines the winners.  In Round 1, each entry is rated by 3 different judges and those scores will be averaged to determine the final Round 1 score. The top scoring qualified ideas will be finalists who advance to the final competition.  There will be 8 finalists for both the virtual and in person competitions.   The Round 1 judging rubric can be found on the Rules page.

Finalists will be notified mid-November and will be provided with final event details.


What is required of the finalists?

The eight competition finalists for each competition will be required to make a six minute presentation on their business idea to a judging panel. Thirty – sixty seconds is allowed for the elevator pitch, and the remaining time is for the presentation. A visual component such as a PowerPoint, storyboard, handout, demonstration or other visual component of the finalist’s choice is required. Finalists will also give their elevator pitch during the Awards Ceremony. The Marketing Design and special category winners will also give an elevator pitch for their idea.  All finalists and special categories winners will be provided detailed instructions once they are confirmed, and they will also be invited to a virtual orientation one week prior to the event.  Most of all we want you to have fun and learn about entrepreneurship!

What is the role of the specialty category award winners at the final event?

Winners of the Marketing Design and Specialty Category awards are determined, and notified, prior to the final event. They are invited to participate in the activities at the final event. Specifically, these winners will be asked to give an elevator pitch of their idea at the Awards Ceremony and will be presented their awards during the ceremony.

What happens on the day of the final competition?

During the morning, the finalists will give their presentation to the judging panel. Students will have time to visit with their mentors and participate in a variety of activities outside of their presentations. Following lunch, the Awards Ceremony will include Elevator Pitches by the finalists and special category winners, a business owner panel discussion, and the presentation of the awards.

How are the overall BIG Idea Competition winners determined?

In the final round, a separate panel of judges for each competition will evaluate all eight finalists’ presentations to determine their final rank. Rubrics for the  final judging (Round 2) can be found at the Rules page on the website.

Special Category winners are determined by the award sponsors.

Do Honorable Mention students participate in the final event?

Honorable Mention students will have the opporutnity to prsent a pitch for their idea the morning of the competition.  All Honorable Mention students will be invited, and the limited spots availalbe will be filled on a first come first served basis.  These presentations will take place in person at Northern State University on the day of the final competition.

Can other students participate in the final event?

Absolutely! All schools and students who submitted entries to the BIG Idea Competition are invited to the Awards Ceremony. During the morning, all students can participate in various activities, booths and tours including the BIG Idea Selfie Contest.  Following lunch, the Awards Ceremony will include a presentation from successful entrepreneurs, and the finalists and special category winners will deliver their elevator pitches. Awards presentations will then be made to all the winners in the Business Idea Competition.   If you can’t be in Aberdeen, the event is livestreamed as well.

Advisor FAQ’S

Who is considered an advisor?

Any teacher, advisor, or other school personnel who is overseeing a student participating in this competition is considered an advisor. This activity can be part of a class or on an individual basis.

How are Advisors informed about competition activities?

When advisors create an account, they have access the Advisor Dashboard which provides the Advisor access to resources as well as student activity. The Advisor is able to see their students’ work and the status of their projects. Advisors are able to view their students’ specific entries and marketing designs. Communications from competition organizers will be via email using the address used to create the Advisor account.

How can I set up an Advisor account?

Create an advisor login (email and password) by choosing Advisor Login on top of the BIG Idea Competition home page. From there, choose your school from the drop down list. (If your school is not listed, contact kelly@growsd.org to request that it be added.) Once your account is created, your name and school will be listed and available for students to select when completing their entries. Advisors will not be able to change school affiliation once a student has chosen them as an advisor. Once advisors log in to the site, they will have access to the Advisor Dashboard.

Are students required to have an advisor?

Students are not required to have an advisor. For those students without an advisor, they should choose Independent Study in the Advisor field when students create their profile.

Is there a copy of the full entry application available for viewing?

Yes! There is a word document of the BIG Idea student entry form that can be used for preparation. We do require the content to be uploaded to the student’s online entry form in order to submit their idea. You can download the document here.

How do I get my students a free Canva account to create their Marketing Design?

Canva is a great tool that your students can use to create their Marketing Design. Canva for Education is available 100% free to primary and secondary (K-12) educators and institutions. To get access for your students, you will first need to create an account and get verified by Canva. Not only is Canva useful for students, but also for you as a teacher!  Teachers can access thousands of high-quality, educational templates for every subject, grade, and ability including worksheets, lesson plans, presentations, posters, reports, and more, all ready to customize.  Read more about Canva for Education here.

How to sign up:

If you sign up to Canva using an education domain on Canva’s allow list, you’ll instantly be upgraded to Canva for Education.

  1. Open the Canva for Education sign up page.
  2. Use your school’s, Department of Education’s, or Google-certified email domain if you have one. You can also sign up through Clever, Microsoft, or Google.
  3. Follow the sign up prompts.
  4. After signing up, select that you are a Teacher.
  5. Click Get verified now.
  6. Fill in your details, and attach proof of teaching certification and employment.
  7. Canva will email you your application result within 48 hours.

How to invite students:

After your Canva for Education application is approved, you can invite students to your class from the People tab on your Canva class page.

  • Canva for Education is safe for children of all ages as it’s COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can create easily and safely. More details here.
  • Learn more about inviting students and teachers to your class.

Judging FAQ’S

Why should I be a BIG Idea competition judge?

Receiving around 300 entries each year, the competition relies on a large number of volunteer judges since each entry is judged by three separate people to determine the top scoring finalists. In just an hour or two, you can provide solid feedback to our high school entrants on their idea, a valuable learning experience for them.  Judges score the entry using a score card and provide comments. These scores will determine the finalists who will compete for over $50,000 in cash and scholarships.  To be a judge, please email your interest to kelly@growsd.org by October 25th so your judging account can be created.

What is the timeframe for BIG Idea judging?

The judging takes place during the first week of November each year and is done completely online. In most cases, the judging should take no more than 2 hours time and does not have to be done all at once.

What is the process for the BIG Idea judging?

Once a judge has created an account, they are assigned entries to judge which they access through a judging website. Once an entry is chosen, the judge is presented with the student’s work and a scoresheet to complete online for each entry.  There are a few questions to be scored for each section and box to provide comments.  Constructive comments are highly encouraged and key to the students’ learning.  There are also two separate sections for scoring spelling and grammar as well as innovation and creativity.   Examples of the scoresheet, past judged entries and instructions are available at the Dashboard on the judging website.  A How-To video can also be accessed here.