Students present ideas in first Entrepreneur Idol contest today

The competition gives finalists 90 seconds to present their business proposals.

by Elena Rozwadowski

While some students spent their spring breaks relaxing at home or on a sunny beach in Mexico, Carlson School of Management student Phuoc Bui spent his writing a business proposal.

“It’s not work, it’s a hobby,” he said.

Bui, a marketing and supply chain junior, will use that proposal to compete against seven other finalists for a $500 prize in the first “Entrepreneur Idol” competition, hosted by the Carlson School at noon today.

The competition, created by the Entrepreneurship Club and the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, gives students 90 seconds or less to present their ideas for a panel of judges and a live audience.

John Stavig, director for the Center of Entrepreneurial studies, said the contest is trying to impress upon students “the need to not spend six months coming up with some huge business plan.”

The idea, Stavig said, is to give students a chance to pursue their interests in becoming entrepreneurs.

“The most important thing is that it encourages students to take the next step,” he said.

The finalists were chosen from 15 entries. Those ideas, Stavig said, were chosen for their originality and marketability.

“Is there a real need? Is there a real market? Is your product really different from something out there? These are the questions that are most important to consider,” Stavig said.

Many of the finalists submitted ideas that they had long before they even knew about the competition.

Bui, for example, came up with his idea for an “eBay middleman,” a company that would go to people’s homes and help them sell their items online for a commission, last summer while talking with some friends.

“The idea just comes,” he said. “It’s taking that idea and really making it into a workable business plan that really takes a lot of work.”

Then there is Carlson School student Catherine Malovrh, whose idea for a bike rental station was inspired by her studies in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“This is a great opportunity to develop an idea so you can actually present it,” she said.

Both the club and the competition are open to all University students, something Stavig said the Entrepreneurship Club is trying to encourage because of all the great ideas from different colleges.

The eight finalists represent five colleges, including the Carlson School.

Electrical engineering senior Patrick Delaney, who helped form the idea for the competition, said entrepreneurship belongs outside the Carlson School.

About half the members of the Entrepreneurship Club are in the Carlson School, he said.

“Entrepreneurship is inherently a non-Carlson type of pursuit,” he said. “Carlson students even refer to us as ‘The Rebel Club.’ “

Delaney, who is involved in two businesses of his own, said he sees the competition as more of a “transfer of ideas; more of an educational exercise” for students who want to pursue a business.

“I’m doing what I like to do, and that’s what entrepreneurship is all about,” he said. “It’s about following your passion and making a life for yourself.”