Under the guidance of Wells' Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship, the event promotes a well-rounded, fundamental understanding of key interdisciplinary practices essential to the success of any organization. Entrepreneur Week also includes lectures from successful entrepreneurial CEOs of both for-profit and not-for-profit companies.
Each team is required to submit a written business plan and challenged with the task of pitching their original business idea to a panel of judges. With the mentorship of faculty professionals, the student entrepreneurs work together to learn critical reasoning and communication skills required for leadership roles within any career pathway. The winners in each field earn cash awards, with the potential of additional incentives to pursue their business' start-up campaign and give rise to a brand new real-world business.
The judges for the 2017 competition were life coach and director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works Ariana Blossom '06, Wake Up Waffles founder Keegan Evans '15, senior vice president of CenterState CEO Andrew Fish, and Sue Edinger, general manager of the Inns of Aurora. The keynote speaker for the week was Miki Agrawal, creator of THINX, ICON, Wild NY, and TUSHY.
Eliza Schwab '18 and Kent Schwab earned the grand prize for their idea Schwab's Cider Port; they also took first in the Friends-Family-Faculty category. First place in the for-profit category was Charles Noble '17 (Memory Makerspace), and the social impact category was led by Alyssa Broome '17 and Kelly Reppert '17 (Willow Creek Health & Wellness Center). A prize for Most Sustainable Business Idea went to Yequarah Conner '19 and Marian Brown (Hemp Sweet Home). All of the place winners qualified for the NY State Business Plan Competition, and four teams planned to compete.
After a week of planning and mentoring and an inspiring keynote address by entrepreneur Leila Janah, the competition took place in Stratton Hall. The judges had narrowed the field from the 35 teams that registered to six semi-finalists, each of which gave a short presentation of their ideas and plans for potential implementation. Judging took into account the quality of the presentation, potential effectiveness of the idea, and the work that participants had put into researching and modifying their ideas. This year's judges were Keegan Evans '15, an entrepreneur for seven years and previous "Be Your Own Boss!" competitor; Jennifer Pelton '92, Director of Development at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore; John Gardner, photographer, entrepreneur, real estate developer, and consultant; and Kevin Miles, director of the Sullivan Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.
The winners were:
The competition, held in the newly-renovated Zabriskie Hall, brought together 41 student teams competing for $7,000 in prizes with their original and innovative business ideas in for-profit, non-profit and social impact arenas. The grand prize went to "Jaunt," the brainchild of Matthew Getch '15 (a Computer Science major from Cali. with a minor in Mathematics), Valerie Schweigert '16 (a Sociology and Anthropolgy major, minoring in Business, from Texas), Jake Smith '16 (a New Yorker majoring in Film and Media Studies) and Chazz Noble '17 (from N.J. and an undeclared major). The students' service would allow customers to input a date, budget and a few keywords and result in a pre-planned but entirely spontaneous—and even secret—vacation. Other winners included a fitness-focused food truck and a drive-through restaurant offering health food.
Throughout the week, faculty and alumnae guest speakers and judges served as advisors and mentors to the aspiring entrepreneurs. The mentoring focused on the presentation of the business idea itself, as judges deliberated over the student's creative concepts and met with student teams individually to review their written business plans in addition to judging their presentations. One of the guest speakers for the week, Jennifer Pelton '92, gave a talk titled "Insider Secrets about the Non-Profit Job Market." Pelton, who is director of development at The Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Md., shared information about the professional path that brought her to her current role, a typical day in her career, the importance of mentors, and how to generate opportunities and explore interests through internships.
The keynote speaker, Miki Agrawal, is the founder of several businesses in areas including New York City, Las Vegas and Sri Lanka, including the farm-to-table, alternative pizza concept WILD, for which she partnered with the CEO of Zappos.com. In her talk,"Do Cool Sh*t," also the title of her best-selling book, Agrawal mentioned that she regularly corresponds with former President Bill Clinton to address social impact and women's issues.
The re-branded "Be Your Own Boss" Business Idea Competition created a flurry of activity at Wells. The week kicked off with a talk by Dave Brandt, head coach of the U.S. Naval Academy soccer team. Brandt became an entrepreneur in order to follow his passion, building a successful business in addition to his remarkable coaching career. Keynote speaker Jessica Jackley, a liberal arts major, gave a remarkable lecture on how during her experience as volunteer in Haiti and Africa she came to realize that people in developing countries wanted more direct opportunities to improve the lives of their families. This led to the development of her not-for-profit company, Kiva.org, which has enabled 1 million people to loan $500 million to low-income or underserved entrepreneurs around the world.
The prize winners in the For Profit track were:
The prize winners in the Social Impact track were:
All students who participated in the 2013 Entrepreneur Week demonstrated ingenuity and ambition as they presented their ideas. They developed their projects with the assistance of Wells' Entrepreneur in Residence Jon Greene and came prepared to discuss the product or service provided, the value and benefits they would deliver to customers, their target market and marketing strategy, and the way that it would relate to the closest competition. Additionally, the first- and second-place winners were again eligible to take advantage of award money to carry out their business plan.
The competition also included an ice cream social in the lobby of Stratton Hall, giving the participants the chance to sample Sundaes Best Hot Fudge Sauce, the specialty of alumna entrepreneur and keynote speaker Katie Camarro '85. Katie's talk covered her experiences leading up to the founding of her company, some of the challenges she had faced and solutions she found, and the rewards of forming the skills and relationships that helped her succeed.
The 2013 Entrepreneur Week Winners were:
In 2012, twenty-three Wells students spent Entrepreneur Week discussing their business ventures, refining projects, and preparing to present their ideas. Audience members also played a crucial role in rewarding the work of these students. Attendees were given pretend money to "invest" in the ideas that they found the most promising; the amount that each collected was awarded to the team as a prize and factored into the judging process and the special awards. Keynote speaker Julie Shimer, CEO of Welch Allyn and founder of Blue Highway, gave a special lecture on entrepreneurship.
Winners of the 2012 Entrepreneur Week were:
The inaugural Entrepreneurship Week was held shortly after Wells added business and entrepreneurship courses of study. In the for-profit category, students were measured on their business plan, revenue generation, and likelihood of becoming an actual product. In the not-for-profit category, judging criteria included number of people helped, number of people potentially helped, scale of social ill, and likelihood of alleviating social ill. All students were also judged on the quality and passion of their presentations.
The contest elicited 45 participants, all of whom received a reward for presenting their ideas.
In the not-for-profit category, Jessica Alicea, a first-year student from Salisbury Mills, N.Y., and Melissa Fortin, a first-year student from Alton, N.H., bested six other teams with their concept to fund the SPCA through pet sitting and pet rental for stress reduction at Wells College.
In the for-profit category, Kasia Jandura-Cessna, a first-year student from New Hartford, N.Y., and Alev Cakmak, a first-year student from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., beat five other teams with their development plan for a new training golf club.
Entrepreneurship Week has been made possible, in part, by a gift in memory of Louise Bingham Hatch, Wells College Class of '38, from her family.