California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

Innovation Could Net $50,000

Published: March 16, 2015

The 5th Annual CSULB Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony will be held Thursday, April 9, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Pointe Conference Center at the Walter Pyramid. Sponsored by the colleges of Business Administration (CBA), Engineering (COE) and the Arts (COA), four student teams will have a chance to win up to $50,000 in value to start a business.

“The competition is open to all CSULB students and all majors,” explained Barbara Barcon, a COE advisory council member and CBA alum. Those invited to present at the award ceremony will receive prizes in the form of gift certificates with the winning team awarded an allotment of seed funding as well as in-kind contributions.

“Student participants will be judged on a written business plan that includes a clear identification of customer needs/requirements, an innovative solution or approach to address the need, sound marketing and sales concept, a reasonable business concept and revenue model (financial projections) and a formal presentation on April 9 to a panel of judges,” added Barcon. “They will be judged on the quality of their plan and presentation plus style, the experience of the team members and their projected ability to implement the business plan.”

In addition to the $10,000 seed funding, the winning team will be supported by such donations as office space for one year, printing service for business cards, stationery and brochures; marketing services and consultation, legal assistance, accounting and tax help for one year, communication services and mentorship as needed, all provided by the university and local businesses.

“The event is being staged in a competitive environment with the objective to identify and develop ideas that have potential for commercialization,” she said. “The goal is to stimulate students to pursue ideas, create a business plan and put their plans in motion. “

“Nurturing bright students’ entrepreneurial interest and educating them in capitalizing on great ideas are the primary goals of the team that leads the organization of CSULB Innovation Challenge,“ said Forouzan Golshani, Dean of the College of Engineering. “Five years ago at the outset of this initiative, we set two main objectives for the competition. One was to reach out to as many students across all areas of the university, specifically engineering, business and design, and reach out to any student who showed an interest in learning about business and venture. The other goal was to grow one successful business out of our university every year. I am very pleased with the tremendous success that the team is enjoying on both fronts.”

One of the resources available to the students to prepare for the Challenge is a six-week free Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP) that offers participating students a certificate of completion in entrepreneurship. Students from YEP will also be at the event hosting a table with flyers and more info on their program.

“The YEP is great for anybody who wants to learn more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” said Barcon. “They will have the chance to meet other team members from other disciplines. There is a lot of synergy in this program and it offers students the chance to network with students from other disciplines that could be potential teammates. Those seeking more information may access the Innovation Challenge website.

Members of the Innovation Challenge Advisory team see the Innovation Challenge as a way for the university to fulfill its mission.

“This is a university and we are educators,” Barcon said. “We are helping to create potential entrepreneurs. Participating in this competition gives these students the chance to learn if their business model is workable and what they need to know about tax issues and marketing to make that assessment. What does it take to be an entrepreneur? There are students who will jump at the chance once they know and there are students who will sigh and change their goals. Whatever their decision, this competition will be an education for them. With the amount of resources we have to offer, this competition changes lives. Now in its fifth year, we have helped over 320 students. We always need to be better and we are always looking to grow but we’re happy to have reached so many students so far and provide a opportunity that wasn’t available five years ago.”

It is important to offer an entrepreneurial skill set as well as nourishment for the kinds of people who are interested in this kind of career, Barcon believes.

“Past winners have come from majors all over the campus,” she said. “One of our past winners was an accounting major and was recognized for a sliding magnetic window. Offering programs like this makes sure this university is as competitive.”

This program helps students learn how to be entrepreneurs, she said. “If successful, they create jobs and help the local economy. They are the future local business leaders. This is what they need and what we ought to provide,” she said. “I can’t imagine not offering the Innovation Challenge. Students choose this university for their education based on how much of a competitive advantage CSULB offers. The Challenge is one of those advantages.”

Barcon feels the Innovation Challenge is especially rewarding when students can see the value they are receiving.

“We have testimonials from students who were grateful for being exposed to things they had neither imagined nor known about. We have seen past winners continue their relationships with their mentors. When our student entrepreneurs find themselves on the cusp of a deal, they often find their mentors still at their sides. Many of these mentors return year after year because they want to give back to the community. It is exciting,” she said.

The Innovation Challenge will endure, Barcon believes.

“We know how to do it now,” she laughed. “The biggest challenge is understanding the CSULB student population and drawing from them the best participants. Each class has just so many entrepreneurs. But as long as we receive support from the university, we hope the Challenge will continue.”