There was not an empty chair in the room when Deb Zellner gave the signal to turn down the “Eye of the Tiger” background music and began explaining this year’s New Venture Competition by asking, “Why are you all here?”
“You could win $30,000,” Zellner, executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, said. “You could find a business partner for life. This is the place you can turn your passion into a business, and we’re going to help you.”
It was the classic vision of a business assembly for the New Venture Competition kick-off in Grawn 150 Wednesday night, as various name tag-wearing business majors packed into the cramped air-conditioned room, with the smell of assorted Hors d’oeuvre lingering in the air.
From there followed a night of guest speakers ranging from Keith Goodwin, retired senior vice president at Cisco Worldwide Systems, to recent CMU graduate Nick Reynolds, founder of the Cool Life Livin’ brand.
Each had nuggets of wisdom for the young students before them, praising the New Venture Competition as a stepping stone to success.
Students from CMU and Michigan Tech University could win from a pool of $85,000 in cash prizes and in-kind services from local and regional business sponsors as start-up for their own business.
Reynolds entered the competition twice with high hopes, but felt the sting of failure both times. His message was one of perseverance.
“Through every failure there is a lesson learned,” Reynolds said. “When you look at this competition, don’t just look at it as money or capital, because there is so much more that you can learn from it.”
Some students were entrepreneur majors, but there were many unconventional students in attendance as well, like Owosso senior Tyler Teichman, a mechanical science major.
“I’m still on the fence (about competing), but I’m interested in business,” he said. “I have a lot of interest in mechanical things and I want to put my ideas out there.”
Zellner explained that of the 90 participants last year, 26 had majors unrelated to business.
The competition, which is free to enter, provides students the opportunity to form a two to five person team of business partners and turn their ideas into sustainable business ventures under the guidance of seasoned entrepreneurs and alumni mentors.
Student workshops, coaching opportunities and career networking over an eight-month period provide competitors with plenty of useful training.