Students win money with big business plans
Monday, April 13, 2009
By Sara Israelsen-Hartley
PROVO — This is no corner lemonade stand. Oh no. These rising entrepreneurs have graduated from selling the juice swiped from their moms' cupboards to devising products and services they hope will revolutionize the athletic, medical, environmental and technological worlds.
This month, both Brigham Young University and the University of Utah announced winners of their annual challenges to create new, likely-to-succeed businesses.
"Given the down economy that we're in, these types of events really help to illustrate the fact that the entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive, at least on college campuses," said Jonathan Ward, director of the BYU Business Plan Competition and also a competition winner. "To me, it brings hope about the future of the economy."
Beginning last fall, students invested hundreds of hours developing, designing and promoting products from supportive athletic tape to water-repellant fabric additives.
BYU's Business Plan Competition is a closed-campus contest, while the U.'s Utah Entrepreneur Challenge is open to any college student across the state and this year included three teams from BYU and one from Westminster College.
"This is basically putting everything that they've been learning, or are starting to learn, (in place,)" said Steven Snyder, director of public relations for the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. "They're just throwing themselves into the deep end. Some have said they might (as well) have thrown the textbook away, because the hands-on is a lot more work, lot more effort and a lot more surprises that pop up along the way."
BYU announced its winners April 3, and the U. celebrated its winners at a banquet Thursday. Many of the companies have won other competitions or will compete in the Global Moot Corp. Competition, considered by many to be the Super Bowl of entrepreneur competitions, in May.
BYU's challenge began in 1993 and since then has given out more than $650,000 in cash and in-kind services through donations from founders in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.
Since 2001, the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge has awarded nearly $1 million in cash and in-kind services thanks to donations from generous community sponsors.
Many of the student participants will graduate and instantly move into managing their new or growing companies, said Nile Hatch, faculty advisor for the Business Plan Competition.
It's not just homework anymore. This is a future.
"I think the job market has put pressure on them to commit to this," he said. "It used to be … corporate jobs (were) really secure — well-paid, well-respected, also really safe. When that doesn't seem as safe anymore, I think the entrepreneurship path probably looks more attractive, less daunting."