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Elevator Grant - 7th Annual Conference - Southwestern Illinois College, IL
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$7,500 to host a Student Entrepreneur Award competition with Southern Illinois University's Entrepreneurship Center. Twenty five applicants will be selected to compete in an elevator pitch competition with local entrepreneurs serving as judges.


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April Update

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Monday, May 24, 2010

Our event was a success!  Our judges selected 15 winners and all are pictured in the photo. As you can imagine, they were a very happy group. If you haven't read the previous posts about the event, here is a quick overview:

  • Students from Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC, a community college), Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville (SIUE) and high school students in the community college district were invited to submit an application describing an idea for a product or service.
  • Twenty five of the entries were invited to the live "pitch" event on April 26. A panel of 3 judges (all local entrepreneurs) listened to the pitches and chose the winners. 
  • Each winner received a $500 check made possible by a grant from the Coleman Foundation.

Following are a few thoughts on the event.....

  • The "losers" were treated poorly and, of course, that was unintentional. Since we had a limited pool (25 participants) for 15 awards the 10 people who did not win stood out much more so than they would have had we had just 1 to 5 winners. We believe that put a damper on an otherwise very positive event. Lesson learned - take care of all participants, not just the winners.
  • Local media outlets did not cover the event live and that was a big disaapointment. Press releases and media alerts were issued but apparently they did not generate interest. That will be a key priority next year.
  • The event was open to all area high school students but we received just 15 entries from that group out of 70 applications. After discussing the event with a local high school administrator we realize that the high school teachers need much more notice if they are to make participation part of a class requirement. The one high school that did require its marketing students to participate had 11 entries and 4 of those were selected to participate. Of those 4, two were selected as winners. Needless to say, that high school will be back next year. Another high school class worked on its entry as a class and it was selected to present but did not win.
  • Members of SCORE (volunteer business counselors) attended the event and were quite enthusiastic. Their support was important given their experience in counseling aspiring entrepreneurs. After the event they spoke at length with several of the participants offering critical advice for advancing their ideas.
  • Feedback from the judges and SCORE members as well as the participants was very positive and supportive of staging the event again next year. All who commented felt that local funding should be available. We hope to raise at least half of the award money locally. The Coleman grant provided the spark we needed to move forward on the inagural event and we are pleased to think that we won't need to request full funding again - at least not for the same event.

While we were disappointed in the media coverage we believe the event generated a good level of "buzz" in the community via word of mouth. (Note: There was some pre-event coverage in the local newspaper for the event.) As with any such activity the first time is a learning experience and we expect future events to garner more attention and participation. Again, the support of the Coleman Foundation was critical and we are most appreciative.

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March Update

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Tuesday, April 20, 2010

March was a bit of a slow month in terms of things to do for the April 26 elevator pitch. Applications trickled in here and there but picked up a bit in the last week of the month. The online application deadline was April 5. As you might have guessed the bulk of the applications came in just before the deadline. That did cause some anxiety as we fretted over whether or not we would get a respectable number of applications. We did - 70 in all.

Our primary goal in March was to generate interest in the event so that students would apply. To that end we posted flyers on our respective campuses, and asked all faculty members to remind their students of the event and the $500 awards. We also sent e-mail reminders to all of the area high schools. The Southwestern Illinois College student newspaper ran a feature story on the event which we believe was very helpful in raising awareness on that campus. The local newspaper ran a brief story as well.

There will be much more to report in April as I share results of the event on the 26th.

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January Update

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Thursday, February 4, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010
The start of the spring semester didn't leave much time for work on our project until just this past week. Things are moving quickly now. Our application process for the competition is now "live" online. An e-mail "blitz" to local high schools takes place today with hard copy of flyers to follow next week. The flyers are also posted on the SIUE campus (our partner in this project) and on our own campus. Two of the three judges for the elevator pitch competition have confirmed their participation and we hope hear from the third judge very soon. Our SCORE partners are enthused and ready to serve as evaluators for the online applications (25 applicants will be selected to participate in the elevator pitch event.)
Pulbicity is the pirmary focus now with follow-up messages planned to each high school in the coming weeks. Press releases to generate community interest are another key priority and we are working with our institutional marketing department in that area. I hope to be able to tell you about all the applications we have received in my February report!  (Note: The deadline for applications is April 5 so I may be engaged in wishful thinking for February submissions.)

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December 2009 Update

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Early in  December Southwestern Illinois College hosted a meeting with two local businessmen who are very intersted in entrepreneurship education in our area. Our grant partners from Southern Illinois Universiy - Edwardsville joined us for a discussion of a project the two businessmen support as well as a review of our elevator pitch competition funded by the Coleman Foundation. I was pleased that the president of our institution attended along with our VP Marketing and the dean of the business division to show our commitment to entreprneur education. Both gentlemen were supportive of our event and one will serve as a judge.  We plan to meet again in March to discuss a summer camp for high school students which will be funded by one of the two businessmen.
We are gearing up quickly for our competition with a kickoff announcement planned for the week of January 25.

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November 2009

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009
During the past few weeks we have locked in a date for our event - April 26, 2010. An application due date was set for April 5. Judges will review the paper copies between April 5 and 12 and meet on the 12th for final selection with invitations to the April 26 competition extended no later than April 16.  Working out mundane schedule details was not nearly as fun as the bigger picture planning but it has to be done!
Our next tasks are to extend invitations to judges and to finalize our promotion plans. We will announce the competition in early January to our respective college communities and to the local high schools. The Public Information and Makreting departments at SWIC and SIUE will provide significant support for this.
The promotion aspect will be particularly enjoyable for this marketing professor!
Happy Holidays!

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October 2009

Posted By Sue M. Taylor, Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Receiving the grant at the NACCE conference was such a thrill! Now it’s time to get to work.

To add just a bit more detail to the synopsis that appears at the top of this page….We are hosting an elevator pitch competition for area high school students as well as students from Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE). Students will submit a paper application describing their business idea. Twenty five applicants will be selected by a panel of judges to pitch their ideas on the SWIC campus in April. Fifteen winners will be selected and each one will receive a $500 award courtesy of the Coleman Foundation’s generous grant. A reception will follow so that all participants will get chance to interact with the judges as well as SCORE counselors for additional feedback on their ideas.

My partner in this project is Kristine Jarden, Director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. We met the week after I returned to begin laying out details: preparing the applications for participants, discussing the ground rules for the elevator pitch component and identifying potential judges are among the most pressing issues right now.  This morning (11/4) in our local SCORE meeting we discussed how the chapter might get involved and a SCORE district representative offered financial support for the event. We’re quite pleased with that!

Kristine and I will have a telephone meeting tomorrow to move forward on some of the details.

Tags:  event description  progress to date 

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