posted March 14, 2011

“Idea Pitch” Program Encourages Student Entrepreneurs

 In a competition for students at Hope College developed to support creativity, it was a project with the same focus that won.

Senior Aaron Martin of Hartselle, Ala., won the Idea Pitch "Top 10" competition sponsored by the Hope's Entrepreneurship Initiative (HEI) on Thursday, March 10.  His concept was a freelance clearinghouse website for creative students and organizations with creative needs.

"My father and sister have undergraduate degrees in art," he said Martin.  "This platform would help creative people find a broader market for their talent." 

A total of eight finalist teams participated in the Idea Pitch event, chosen out of 45 initial competing individuals and teams.  Martin received a $500 gift card for placing first, but the competition is designed to be a winning learning experience for all of the participants.

Coordinated through the college's Center for Faithful Leadership, the HEI program seeks to help students develop skills in servant-leadership, team-building and process-thinking while considering whether or not entrepreneurship is their calling and how their ideas might make a positive difference.

"Our hope is to help encourage students to feed their creative spark by participating in the Pitch and Learns," said Dr. Steve VanderVeen, who is director of the Center for Faithful Leadership.  "Self discovery is part of what a liberal arts education is all about.  When people discover their passion, it benefits us all.  I can't wait to see what these students do next."

The Idea Pitch event challenges students to imagine that they are on an elevator with a potential investor and have 90 seconds to make a compelling sales pitch regarding their idea.  The students are given 90 seconds to make a pitch to a panel of judges, followed by a question-and-answer period and feedback.

The Idea Pitch event is open to students from across campus.  Martin is a political science and economics double major.  The other academic programs represented in the March 10 competition included accounting, art, communication, German, Japanese, leadership, management, psychology, religion, Spanish and vocal performance.  Two of the finalists were freshmen, two were sophomores, one was a junior and five were seniors.  Six of the finalists were female and six were male.

The students' ideas were as varied as the academic programs represented.  In addition to Martin's prize-winning website idea, the finalists and their projects were:

° The team of Sarah McAlpine, a senior accounting major, and Andrew Veenhoven, a sophomore German and economics double major (both from Holland), who competed with an idea for a new holder for beer growlers;

° Mary Kelso, a freshman psychology major from Sault St. Marie, and Samantha Rushton, a freshman communication major and leaders and psychology double minor from Warren, who presented their idea for a coffee stick that would attach to a lid and tell the temperature of the beverage;

° Kyle Goins, a senior management major and economics minor from the Cleveland, Ohio, area and Brian Lynn, a sophomore communication major and leadership minor from Holland, who spoke of hybrid bridge/gift card for college students;

° Kylen Blom, a junior communications and management double major from Holland, who offered a restaurant-related application for a hand-held device;

° Trevan Thompson, a senior Spanish, psychology, and management major from ReedCity, who offered an idea for amateur and professional photographers to share space and equipment;

° Ayanfeoluwa Olonade, a senior communications and management major from Jos, Nigeria and Meg Simpson, a senior management major and vocal performance minor from St. Joseph, who competed on their idea for a kid's taxi service; and

° Katlyn Prince, a senior accounting major from Holland, and Patrick Bedsole, a senior management major from Rochester, who presented an idea for phone application that could be set to send text message greetings and reminders.