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.