By Sharon Cox
For graphic art students and business majors at the University of Jamestown, the first three days of December were like free money in their piggy banks.
UJ hosted the three-day Start-Up Weekend to introduce the Jamestown Regional Entrepreneur Center to the people of Jamestown and campus family. Katherine Roth (class of 2001) and Sharon Fors organized the Techstars event and brought in speakers, motivators and judges to kick-start what was an exciting and simultaneously educational event that provided a priceless business-working model for those attending.
Jamestown’s Scott Bintz, owner-operator of RealTruck.com, an online parts and accessories business (that also has a brick-and-mortar office here in town), was guest speaker. He talked about ideas and turning those ideas to gold. The multi-millionaire was there to help inspire the would-be entrepreneurs to formulate ideas into reality.
During the first afternoon’s events, Corey Smith, the Techstars facilitator, guided attendees in a team-building competition that involved building paper airplanes and a scavenger hunt that led to the serious tasks at hand: flushing out ideas into viable businesses.
Following a minute of each pitching their ideas, a dozen or so would-be entrepreneurs described something that could be built, a service they could provide and then waited while their ideas were voted on by everyone attending.
The four ideas chosen were from Jamestown High School (one), one from a member of the general public and two UJ students. The idea from a member of the general public and a UJ student were later combined into one project, leading to three project teams. Teams of two to five people were chosen to join each group. And no, it was not rigged.
One idea centered on providing a technical service for elderly people through a company called BisATech.ed (originated by JHS senior Jordan Montgomery). The combined idea focused on providing a clothing service (boxed and delivered to the home) and manufactured in a non-polluting manner called the 2700 Project, and the third idea was from team Solor, where through a combination of technology and fashion a new accessory, Kantēn, was created that served as a solar canteen of a mesh design fabricated from shock-absorbent material that dually allowed the storage of solar energy and the ability to maximize backpack space.
Two of the selected businesses (Solor and 2700 Project) were UJ students who had been through the design class at the UJ art department two years ago (Shawn Hogan and Tam Nguyen, respectively). It was fascinating to see how the entire group of business people there gathered around student ideas and embraced/helped improved the final product.
The entire group of participating UJ students were Hogan, Nguyen, Latif Ganda-Nabi, Sophie Edwards and Tyler Carlson. They did an outstanding job collaborating on these team projects to create and develop promising value propositions that potential companies could offer various customer segments.
Over the three days, groups had to put together a concise objective, formulate a business plan and bring to the final day, a prototype that was presented to a panel of five judges (each and expert in the field of business). Their MVP (minimum viable product) had to be pared down to its simplest parts and the bottom line clearly understood.
During the three-day conference and breakout sessions, the facilitator, mentors and director helped each group focus in on their business model that was presented Sunday evening. One of the services provided to the group was food. And it was not just any food, but meals from area businesses such as Applebee's Grill and Bar, IDK, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Paradiso Mexican Restaurant, Dairy Queen, the Depot Cafe, Babb's Coffee House, Quiznos, the Pantry Café and Sodexo. Pepsi and Cash Wise kept fresh fruit and drinks on hand around the clock. Maybe that doesn’t seem valuable, but teams worked well into the night perfecting the business plans and producing a PowerPoint presentation to show that Sunday. They needed nourishment and liquids to hold up the 12 to 15 hours some teams worked.
Following the presentations Sunday, judges selected the top winner: BisATek.ed took first place with Solor second place, and the 2700 Project taking third. Judges said they had a difficult time making the decision and there were few points separating each selection.
For UJ students planning to go into business or any students intending to launch a business, this event was valuable. Mort Sarabakhsh (one of the judges) said he hopes the university does this again soon and more UJ students will attend. I concur.
If anyone has an item for the Art Happenings column, please contact Sharon Cox at 6003 College Lane, at extension 5643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.