From IdeaBounce to Innovation Teams and the Nascent Entrepreneur Workshop Series, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership provides numerous opportunities for students to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit through real-world projects and toolkits. Workshops and events run throughout both the fall and spring semesters to engage students across the campus.
On September 25, the most innovative Illinois students took the stage to impress judges with their creative venture ideas, in the Academy’s third annual IdeaBounce competition, held at the Illini Hillel Foundation. From local campus technologies, to social enterprises that address pressing global challenges, students had only two minutes to articulate a convincing pitch to sell the value of their product or service. The competition was fierce, as only four teams were selected to receive $250 and a networking dinner with the judges. Winning groups included: Jonathan Naber, Corinne O’Connor, Christina Singer, Jan Jelle Spit, Vanessa Ferraz, Brynn Snyder, Stacy Fullman, and Alice Kiehl.
Entrepreneur Jonathan Naber impressed judges, as he described his mission to build a prosthetic arm for less than $25: “What is currently on the market is relatively low tech, not much has changed with the design since the 1800’s. I have a really big desire to help people by giving them a better option than paying $3000 for a hook and clamp, or in some cases going with nothing. I want to offer a solution in the middle for those people. Being an engineering student we aren’t exposed to a huge amount of business courses, but I’m interested in leadership and communication in a business setting. Idea Bounce gave us the opportunity to look at that dimension outside of the textbooks and all the math and physics.”
Many students have chosen to develop their IdeaBounce pitches into full companies and business plans for the Innovation Teams Competition this upcoming March. An impressive seventeen teams have registered to present their enterprise plans, with almost double the student participation from the 2008 inaugural year.
Enterprising MBA student Corinne O’Connor found inspiration for her company ForSaleOnCampus.com after taking an enterprise class last spring and pitching her plan during IdeaBounce: “Before, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneurial person; I would get ideas, but I didn’t have the tools and the toolkit to know what to do with them. After being in the MBA program and taking Dr. Mendes’ course in entrepreneurship, I realized that I do have the tools and resources available to me, and that I can really capitalize on the future of any idea.”
Another innovative partnership was formed between the Academy and Hillel Foundation this past fall semester, to encourage philanthropy and entrepreneurial skills among any interested students across the campus. Together, the two organizations created a program called the Philanthropic Innovations Forum, which was hosted at the Cohen Center for Jewish Life.
Through this program, more than 75 students in 11 teams were taught the skills necessary to form a small business plan. Over a period of five weeks, the groups participated in workshops led by guest speakers arranged by the Academy. At the end of the course, 5 teams including the Illini 4000, the National Association of Black Accountants, The Conservation Committee, Delta Delta Delta, and Sigma Delta Tau, presented their business plans to a judging panel of local business-oriented professionals.
Our congratulations to the two groups, Illini 4000 and Sigma Delta Tau, who were selected to receive seed money to continue the growth of their projects. Any resulting proceeds of their ventures will be donated to a philanthropic cause of their selection. Student coordinator Vadim Sagalchik commented on the success of the partnership, “This opportunity gave many students toolbox skills necessary to create their own business, and it also offered many non-Jewish students the chance get to know the Cohen Center and Hillel. This met one of Hillel’s goals of reaching out to the community to become a regular staple at The University of Illinois.”
Watch videos of 2009 winners