by Alexander Cain
Facing a tougher job market than ever before, students are using their college years to launch business ideas by participating in contests and investing their money to support their dreams. The recession has changed the ideals of many college students as the recent recession has proven that graduating with a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a job. Rather than continuing to struggle applying for jobs, more college students have chosen to go the entrepreneur route to attain their career goals.
As reported in The Los Angeles Times, many college campuses are offering business plan competitions that include cash prizes. These contests are where students propose their business ideas in front of a panel of judges, often a group of potential investors or those familiar with the business process including venture capitalists, fellow entrepreneurs, college professors, or other small investors.
Those who don’t end up winning the competition gain valuable experience pitching their ideas to business experts and gain valuable feedback about their business ideas that would be difficult to gain outside the college campus. As Bryce Benjamin, chief executive in residence at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business, explained “The contests are “an extremely safe-haven environment for students to get a real glimmer of what it’s going to take to start and launch a business.”
They also get to network with other young entrepreneurs and share their experiences about growing a business. “We made a lot of connections, although, honestly, over the past week we made so many I can’t remember them all,” said Justin Lewis, 21, a senior at USC who recently received a prize for his business idea.
This initiative to start business plan contests on college campuses are thriving as more and more campuses host these competitions and the prizes become larger. Rice University in Houston has grown their business plan contest from having prizes totaling only $10,000 in 2001 to this year having over 400 applicants vying for prizes totaling $1 million dollars. There has also been an upstart to many not-for-profit organizations to help students track business competitions to participate in nationwide like the College Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Istart.
While the recession has become a struggle for many, college students are using this as an opportunity to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. For many of them, what started out as idea has become a viable business venture.