More than 60 students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln dedicated a weekend to compete in the Start Something 48-Hour Challenge, coordinated by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Business Administration. The event facilitated an environment where students pitched business ideas, fast-tracked them with fellow students and presented a business plan to judges – all in 48 hours.
“You don’t even need a business idea to compete,” said Dr. Samantha Fairclough, assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and assistant professor of practice in management. “Students just bring their skills, passions and enthusiasm, and find a place for it on one of the teams.”
Fairclough explained how teams formed organically around students who pitched their ideas on Friday. Then the clock started ticking as teams had two days until they presented their final plan.
“The event forced students to meet people they don’t know. They went through the trials and tribulations of solving real-world problems by interviewing business people around town, calling potential customers on the phone or even developing a prototype,” she said.
Students also received mentoring from more experienced students, as well as business professionals from the community. Fairclough believes engaging students with business entrepreneurs is a critical function of the event.
“Students get instant feedback on what they’re doing from people who have experience themselves. It’s an opportunity to make connections with people who act as coaches and may help them with their ideas after the competition,” she said.
The winning team consisted of only two students – Brenna Backemeyer, a sophomore marketing and secondary business education major from Elmwood, Nebraska, and Matthew Sunderman, a senior business administration and history major, from Omaha, Nebraska. Backemeyer had been cultivating a business idea she calls Tasker, which connects students looking for work or flexible employment with local businesses requiring short-term help.
“I had the idea, but we needed to take the next step of validating it with small businesses and students,” said Backemeyer. “On Saturday morning, we interviewed students at the library. Some didn’t have jobs, and they were looking for flexibility with their student schedule. We talked to business people at a local flea market about their needs, as well as people posting smaller jobs on Craigslist and Facebook. I needed to figure out whether our app would be something businesses would pay to use.”
The judges gave valuable feedback for the Tasker team. As owners of small business startups, many of them would be potential customers. They discussed both practical and legal advice to help advance Tasker. Sunderman, who competed in previous business competitions at Nebraska, emphasized the help judges provided.
“The judges get you to think about what your next step would be to take the idea forward,” said Sunderman. “A graduate student from the law school, a financial professional from Fiserv and a member of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce provided advice on what we would need to do to get the business up quickly and make it profitable.”
Student teams posting the most on social media, quickest to take action on their idea and with the most entertaining presentation also won awards.
The Start Something 48-Hour Challenge starts the process for some students choosing to compete in the New Venture Competition which takes place March 27-28. To learn more about the Center for Entrepreneurship and upcoming events, visit: http://cba.unl.edu/entrepreneurship