Supporting entrepreneurs around business plan competitions


Washington University of St. Louis’ Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies offers a comprehensive list of initiatives designed to support entrepreneurship and students in its business plan competition. Activities include The Hatchery, an entrepreneurship class opened to all students at Washington University and Idea Bounce, a website and networking event that seeks to connect budding entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and interested community members.

The Center’s business plan competition is the Olin Cup Competition, which began in 1988 and began awarding funding in 2003 in the form of seed investments. Judges award the $20,000 – $50,000 prizes based on their judgment as to whether an idea is likely to succeed as a viable business.

Rosemary Gliedt, Center director, notes that the confluence of events surrounding the business plan competition supports competitors, students and community members who are interested in entrepreneurship. “We have a really strong relationship with the community,” she says. “All of our events are free and open to the public.”

The Center partners with Youthbridge, a St. Louis-based foundation, to sponsor the Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition, which has been held for the past six years, Gliedt says. Here are some of the events the Center offers:

Idea Bounce: Gliedt describes this program as “the gateway” to all the events sponsored by the Skandalaris Center. The website, which is free and open to all entrepreneurs and students, is a place where they can post business ideas. Idea Bounce events, which are held four or five times a year, bring together budding entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, community leaders and community members. People who have posted ideas to the Idea Bounce website attend these events to pitch their ideas to the crowd. It provides a forum to help them hone their pitch and connect with the resources that they need to move their idea forward, she says.

Coffee with the Experts: In this forum, budding entrepreneurs can make appointments with a panel of experts. It’s an open forum so that each participant has 10 to 15 minutes to describe their business idea to this panel and get feedback.

Non-Credit Seminar Series: Offered in both the fall and spring, this series of four classes takes place over an eight week period and allows students to learn concrete skills to help them think through their business idea and write a business plan. The series includes lectures on topics including idea evaluation and testing, finances and writing a business plan, and panel discussions with entrepreneurs about the evolution of business ideas. The classes end with a reception to allow for networking opportunities, Gliedt says.

The Hatchery: The Center’s flagship entrepreneurial course is open to students from across Washington University, as well as outside entrepreneurs. Students form teams that are expected to make two presentations to a panel of judges and to prepare a complete business plan. Business plans developed via the Hatchery can be used to participate in the Center’s Youthbridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition.


Photo credit: binkle_28

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