Business philanthropist funds “Shark Tank” inspired, entrepreneurial challenge at UNT

Thursday, March 2, 2017 - 00:12
Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist Jerome “Bruzzy” Westheimer, pictured with the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016, is funding the Westheimer New Venture Competition.
Oklahoma businessman and philanthropist Jerome “Bruzzy” Westheimer, pictured with the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016, is funding the Westheimer New Venture Competition.

What: The Westheimer New Venture Competition — The contest pits teams of budding University of North Texas entrepreneurs against one another in a “Shark Tank” style matchup to see which team can come up with the most innovative business concept. The top team will receive $10,000; finalists will also win cash prizes.

When/Where: Final presentations will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28 (Friday) in the UNT College of Business Dean’s Boardroom, Room 295 of the Business Leadership Building at 1307 W. Highland Street. Only invited participants and media may attend.

Deadlines/contact: Proposals must be received by March 31 (Friday). To submit proposals or for details, visit Contact Blair Smith at with questions.

Media: Contact or 940-369-7782 for press passes.

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Enterprising students at the University of North Texas can compete in a new challenge putting their business creativity to the test, thanks to funding from an Oklahoma business leader.

The Westheimer New Venture Competition, sponsored by business philanthropist and UNT alumnus Jerome “Bruzzy” Westheimer, gives students across campus the chance to create original business ideas – including enterprises, products and services – and to pitch those proposals to a panel of venture capitalists, consultants, entrepreneurs and executives.

“This competition provides a special opportunity for students to think critically and get in front of admired business leaders to gain constructive, personalized feedback for their proposals,” said Marilyn Wiley, dean of the UNT College of Business, which is facilitating the contest.

First-, second- and third-place winners will receive $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000, respectively, per team. Remaining finalists will take home $100 per individual.

Westheimer, a longtime supporter of the university, said he knew this competition would especially benefit students who are shy, like he once was, and help them develop important skills like public speaking.

“When you are forced to stand before a board of directors to present your idea, you’re going to find out what the real world is really about,” said Westheimer, adding that the competition is similar to a “mini ‘Shark Tank,’” that will give students valuable experience in an authentic, business setting.

Westheimer earned his bachelor’s degree in administrative management in 1965 and went on to have a lucrative career. He is currently president of Valbel West, an oil and gas producer and geology business in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and president and CEO of the Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation. For his professional prominence, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the university, and he was inducted into the North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame as a Fred McCain Honoree, both in 2016. Westheimer is also a life member of the UNT Alumni Association, a lifetime member of the UNT Kuehne Speaker Series and a member of the university’s President’s Leadership Board.

The Westheimer competition is open to all UNT students in teams of three. Up to 12 teams will be chosen to pitch their plans to about a dozen judges during a 15-minute presentation on April 28.

To participate, UNT students must be classified as sophomores or above and must have taken, or be currently enrolled in, a communications course. Each team has to submit a five-page written summary of their proposal to the College of Business dean’s office by March 31. Finalists will be announced in April. For details or to submit proposals, visit

UNT News Service
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