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CMU president and alumni encourage student entrepreneurs at New Venture kickoff


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Central Michigan University President Robert Davies speaks to students about passionate entrepreneurship at the New Venture Competition kickoff event on Sept. 5 in the Grawn Hall Atrium.

Students from all areas of study were encouraged to create the best business pitch at the New Venture Competition kickoff event on Sept. 5 in the Grawn Hall Atrium.

The New Venture Competition is an annual event that aims to teach students how to start a business by providing entrepreneur workshops and networking opportunities with professionals over a period of eight months, with the final event on April 12. The competition offers over $100,000 in cash prizes and services that can be awarded to students to start their business.

The kickoff event was led by Bruce Marble, the executive director of the entrepreneurship program at CMU. Marble emphasized that the New Venture Competition is for students from all fields, and that every great team requires members with diverse skillsets and backgrounds.

“We need to get the message out to all of the students around campus what the New Venture Competition is,” Marble said. “I find that a lot of students who are in the business school know about it, but not a lot from outside (the business school).”

The next event is Ideation Bootcamp from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14. The Ideation Bootcamp puts students into teams and helps them narrow down their ideas with the help of mentors. 

“The Ideation Bootcamp is a great first step,” Marble said.

Central Michigan University’s new president Robert Davies spoke to students about the importance of pursuing ideas with passion.

“What will get you up in the morning, and how will you thrive?” Davies said. “It comes down to passion.”

Alumni Anthony Lazzaro and Zach Huffman both spoke about their previous experience with the New Venture Competition at the event. 

Lazzaro, a participant of the competition in 2014, is the cofounder of Carol Health and a recipient of the 10 Within 10 Award from CMU, which recognizes graduates who achieve success within 10 years of graduating.

“When I look back on my time here at CMU, one of the most valuable things was the New Venture Competition,” Lazzaro said. “It’s not just one day. It’s a long process that starts now and ends in April. All the value comes in the process and not just the end result.”

Lazzaro advised students to just go for it, to pursue their ideas and passions, whether in the New Venture Competition or not.  

“What’s the worst that could happen, someone says no?” he said.

Huffman won the 2017 Make-a-Pitch competition and is the cofounder of Drone the News. The Make-a-Pitch competition requires students to provide a two-minute business pitch to a group of professionals to get feedback and possibly some money.

He described how he got his business off the ground with the help of mentors and faculty involved in the New Venture Competition.

“Everyone’s here to help everyone out, and it’s a welcoming community,” Huffman said.

For those who might be scared to compete, he had two pieces of advice.

“Don’t be scared to jump into it,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to think out of the box… Think non-traditionally. Change things.” 

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