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The Big Idea Program provides avenue from classrooms to real world

There’s a big difference between life in the classroom and life in the real world. This can lead students to feel like they’re stumbling their way through their career.

Mary McCord, professor of management, said faculty of the Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise Program wanted to create a program that provided more real-world opportunities. Thus, The Big Idea Program designed by ESE program coordinator Dan Jensen.

“Dr. Jensen put together activities to make a strategic program where every activity supported the others and the students gained knowledge and experience through them,” McCord said.

The Big Idea Program uses an arch strategy, which means events are available for students to attend each month throughout the school year.

“Each event has a purpose that supports the students’ growth and supports the upcoming event,” McCord Said.

Students do not have to be an ESE major to participate in program activities. The Big Idea Pitch Competition, Big Idea Business Plan competition and Big Idea Conferences, are the most popular events of the year.

The Big Idea Pitch Competition, scheduled for Nov. 15, allows students to showcase their business ideas in order to receive feedback.  The competition is also a great way for students to begin building their brand.

The top three students are able to win cash prizes they can put toward furthering their business.  The competition also aims to help students overcome their nerves.

“I think the thing that keeps people from launching a business the most is fear,” McCord said.  “They get lots of feedback and that gives them confidence.”

The Big Idea Program also offers conferences where students can begin the planning process.  The three winners of the Big Idea Pitch Competition are able to elaborate on these ideas before presenting them again at the Big Idea Business Plan Competition.

Jensen said students are able to pitch several ideas at the conferences.  Mentors, including industry professionals, alumni and entrepreneurs, are able to work with them to refine those ideas. There is also a small competition at the end of each conference highlighting the best three business ideas.

Another aspect of the Big Idea Program is the Big Idea CEOs, which is an organization that’s goal is to help students improve their ideas.

“I’m very interested in seeing people launch their business and having the tools they need, and that’s what that club provides” McCord said.

The ESE program is unique in that it combines entrepreneur skills and community service, the social enterprise aspect of the Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise Program.

“We believe it’s not just about making money in your business but taking care of the community that helps you be successful,” Jensen said.

Students who are a part of the program are required to choose their own local non-profit and complete service hours throughout the year. Students are also required to donate any profits to that same non-profit.

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