BY ALEX VALDES
Entrepreneurship is highly thought of in the Business School of Perdue.
With the Student Entrepreneurship Competition and Shore Hatchery, there is plenty of opportunity to gain real-world experience in putting together business plans and potentially earning money while doing it.
What tends to be the problem when it comes to students making the decision to compete is the lack of ‘know-how’ and support for their projects.
In response to this need the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Hub, better known as ‘The Hub,’ was officially opened this year.
The mission is to help people produce products, start businesses and create jobs.
The Hub strives to meet its goal in several ways.
It provides support for participants in the competitions.
It is there for those who need to talk to someone about their idea. Professor William Burke of the Perdue School of Business holds office hours on a regular basis for those who have questions about their projects and ideas.
This help is also provided by other faculty and staff members, and students or guest speakers who come and host workshops along with free consulting sessions.
The Hub serves as a location to facilitate the training and support for the Student Entrepreneurship Competition hosted every spring by the Perdue School of Business.
While this competition is 30 years old, Burke has been associated with the competitions for the past 15 years.
In the past, he would utilize his faculty office space to run the competition.
However, with the increase in interest for the competition and other venues for startup ideas, it became clear that another, larger space was needed.
The participation in this student competition has steadily increased, along with the cash prizes for the winners.
In the past five years alone, the total cash prize winnings have increased from $5,000 to $100,000.
The student competition currently has 40 judges between the three different rounds; Invest in my Idea Poster, The Gull Cage and the Bernstein Business Plan.
Besides the student entrepreneurship competition in the spring, there is also the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery competition with total cash prizes annually of $200,000.
As of last year, these competitions in total gave out approximately $300,000 to 36 different competitors for their business ideas and current ventures.
Interest in these competitions is picking up with students outside the business school.
In last year’s competition, 50 percent of students who moved from the first round were not Perdue School members.
The purpose of The Hub has also been to provide the entrepreneurship competitions with a physical presence in the SU community.
Increasing awareness across campus is key to the success of The Hub.
“In the past, I have had to request speaking time in other classrooms across campus to present the entrepreneurship competition to students,” Burke said. “Now, professors invite me to their classrooms to talk about the program.”
The Hub also serves as a network center to match business students with people who have good ideas but do not have the expertise to develop a business plan that can attract investors.
With the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization, or CEO, any student interested in competing can find support from other business students who may have more knowledge and experience with organizing entrepreneurial ventures.
According to Burke, The Hub is a stepping stone for something bigger coming down the road. Salisbury University was gifted The Gallery building in downtown Salisbury.
Currently there are plans in the works to set up an entrepreneurship center within The Gallery building where winners of the competitions can utilize the space in the process of bringing their ideas to market.
This new center will serve as an exhibit to the community to put on display some of the best examples of entrepreneurship.
The center will add value to the community in two ways, through encouraging economic development and job creation here in the local area.
“There are plenty of funds, grants and support at the local level where anyone with a viable business pursuit can find the necessary capital to get going and start creating value for the local community,” Burke said.
With this new center in the works, some may wonder what it means for The Hub.
“The Hub will be the feeder for the new entrepreneurship center as well as the growth of the entrepreneurship competitions,” Burke said.
The ball has been rolling for a while, but it is about to get much bigger.
The greatest part is that the support and assistance is there for any student who wants to realize their dreams and feed their entrepreneurial appetite beyond satisfaction.