Business community on campus organizes start-up competition

To provide students with an opportunity to showcase their ideas and teamwork skills, Oswego State’s chapter of Enactus, the School of Business and the Office of Business and Community Relations are holding their special event, Launch It.

Launch It is a week-long competition focused on entrepreneurship, geared toward students who are interested in bringing their ideas for business to reality. It began on Sept. 8 in the Sheldon Ballroom, where groups and individual students were given 60 seconds to pitch an idea to the audience members. Those audience members were then invited to join those who pitched, and formed teams to work on improving the original idea that will then be pitched to a panel of judges from real-world companies.

Through the mentorship of trusted professionals in the field of business administration, students fine-tuned their pitches over the following week in preparation for day two of the competition. The judging round takes place in the Marano Campus Center auditorium at 4 p.m. on Sept. 15, where contestants will compete for a $1,000 prize and a sponsorship to compete at Oswego County’s Business Plan Competition for a grand prize of $50,000.

Fall 2017 may be Launch It’s first semester in action, but the project has been on Enactus’ drawing board since 2011, according to former Enactus president Jordan Shutts.

Shutts is currently a graduate student at Oswego State in the MBA program and has been a member of Enactus since he was an undergraduate in 2013. He went on to become the senior vice president in 2014, taking on the presidential responsibility in 2015 and ending his tenure in 2016. He said during his time as an active member of the club, he saw the multiple failed attempts the club went through at starting a student incubator, which was intended to be a facility where students could bring their own business ideas and get professional advice, workshopping it as they advanced their studies.

Enactus continued to develop other plans for an idea-progression center, but advances stalled and the project eventually took a back seat to other club ventures before Enactus’ spring 2017 meeting with the school’s Business Advisory Board.

The idea of a competition was presented to the board members, which was approved and put in place for the fall 2017 semester.

“They liked the idea of doing a competition because it brings out the best in people. It went from maybe doing something over a few months to really tailoring it down into a one week thing, like Friday to Friday,” Shutts said. “That’s our competition now. We want to give students the opportunity to come together in a space where they all think alike.”

The School of Business and the Office of Business and Community Relations also had a role in Launch It’s operations, working side by side with Enactus to finalize event details. Shutts said the School of Business dean, Richard Skolnik, was on board with the project and provided faculty support, while also pointing out the School of Business and President Deborah Stanley’s generosity in providing the event’s prize money.

Current Oswego State Enactus president and owner of Gold Standard ATMs, Eli VanOrman is a senior marketing major who has spear-headed his club and this project alongside vice president and junior management information systems major Briana Roy. Together, they are the students taking on the responsibility of ensuring both Enactus’ and Launch It’s success in the future.

VanOrman said one of Launch It’s central motives for creation was to test the current student population’s interest in entrepreneurship. Judging from the two shows’ worth of sold-out ticket sales, it is apparent that there definitely is a great deal of student interest in learning about the profession. VanOrman sees a bigger, more long-term goal for entrepreneurship in Oswego State academia.

“Long-term, we would like to see an entrepreneurship major actually offered here at the school, where students are coming here specifically because it’s recognized for an entrepreneurship program,” VanOrman said. “The next step would be to make this event more of a semester-long thing, potentially look into getting students credit, as if it was a class, and having a professor running a successful second round of the program.”

Roy said she hopes to see more  development in Enactus’ student membership in order to provide stronger leadership for the club in the future.

“With Launch It, it’s going to be easy to get people engaged, get some younger freshmen or something, and plan for next year,” Roy said.

Shutts is leaving Oswego in December to start a job as an analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers, but he still knows the effect Launch It will have on Oswego State students and the Town of Oswego long after he graduates.

“What we see is there to be stronger connection with alumni. There’s a lot of fantastic alumni that have gone and gotten these great jobs, and if they could come back and be of service to our team, that would be fantastic,” Shutts said.

Ultimately, the club said they would love to see the event’s scale grow exponentially. Instead of a few hundred people in attendance, Enactus sees the competition increasing to a few thousand people involved in the making of what could be one of the biggest collegiate business competitions in the U.S.

Photo By: Dori Gronich| The Oswegonian

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