March 29, 2013
Contact: University Relations
It's true in life, and in business: Every person's ideas have value, every contribution can be a positive step or even a major breakthrough in any human endeavor. But in business, especially small business, it's easy to become discouraged by the long and difficult process of bringing an idea to fruition. Business plans, financing strategies, marketing, product development—all of this work is of great necessity, but it can be extraordinarily difficult, even impossible for many, if not most. Every day, budding entrepreneurs put away an idea that could be great, were it not for the daunting tasks that it takes to bring it to fruition.
The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business wants to help students find another way to work on their ideas. Instead of moving through a rigid, proven set of steps that take them from concept to financing to storefront or lab, the center is showing UB students of all kinds—not just business students, but upcoming writers, game designers, attorneys and so on—that entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in creativity, drive and work ethic.
From now until April 5, CEI is hosting its inaugural "Rise to the Challenge" Idea Competition, an opportunity for UB students to describe and build out their dreams for a business—big or small, product or service oriented, totally original or based on existing work. Each participant will submit an executive summary of their idea, complete with a description of the proposed venture, the industry it represents, the target market and any and all milestones that the venture has achieved to date.
"This could be a better way to serve a cup of coffee, or a plan to get to Mars in two years instead of 20," said Johnetta Hardy, executive director of the center. "We're letting students know that their creative impulses are where everything begins—everything in business, literally everything, starts with an idea. As an entrepreneur, you have to stay open to ideas, and be unafraid of sharing them. In that sense, there are no bad ideas, just some that are more effective and achievable than others. That's something that you have to learn and always carry with you. That's what 'Rise to the Challenge' means."
The competitive part of the challenge will take place next month, when a panel of judges (to be named shortly) will assess students' submissions based on their thoroughness and level of viability. The more "worked on" the idea appears, Hardy said, the more likely the judges will find it to have real market potential. The winning idea will receive a cash prize of $1,500.
Finalists will be notified by April 16 whether they can continue in the competition. The finalists will then compete live on Friday, April 26 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the "Rise to the Challenge" Idea Competition, held in the Wright Theater in the UB Student Center, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave. This event is free and open to the public.
"We want as many people there as possible to cheer on our finalists," Hardy added.
"Students, even in middle school and high school, are highly aware that we live in a competitive world," she said. "They know how hard it can be to realize your dreams. The trouble is, there's a tendency to stop dreaming. We're saying that we understand that, we all deal with it, but there are ways to manage it and integrate it into your thinking as you continue to grow and gain experiences as an entrepreneur."
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the School of Law, the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Affairs and the Merrick School of Business.