Tuesday, April 16, 2019

WIU students present business ideas - Western Courier

WIU students present business ideas - Western Courier

WIU students present business ideas - Western Courier

Posted: 15 Apr 2019 10:13 AM PDT

Steven Barnum, News editor

The Illinois Small Business Development Center organized a competition that allowed aspiring entrepreneurs to present their business ideas.

Noah Postin hosted the event, which took place last Thursday in Stipes Hall. Postin is a grad assistant in the business department at Western Illinois University. The pitch competition featured eight students from Western who each had five minutes to present their ideas and an additional five minutes to field questions about their plan.

At the end of the competition, a panel of five judges chose the three strongest participants.

In addition to providing consulting advice so that businesses can start with a stable foundation, they also awarded cash prizes to the top three finishers in the pitch competition. The winner received $1,000, the runner-up contestant received $750 and the third place finisher received $500. Makenzie Harris went home with third place and she was gladto compete.

"Being on stage and having everyone hear my very own business idea made everything so worth it," Harris said. "I am so happy that I had this opportunity and I would go through the whole process over again."

Harris pitched an idea focused on organic juice that stemmed from watching the show "Ancient Aliens." She enjoyed the show's dialogue about space and thought that space and food should correlate. Harris worked on developing her idea and writing the script foreight weeks.

"My preparation for the pitch was a bit stressful at times," Harris said. "I can be a perfectionist, but all in all, it was a very fun and exciting experience to get the chance to challenge myself and use my creativity. Winning third place was so unexpected. I was shocked that they even called my name."

In the weeks leading up to the competition, organizers gave the contestants lessons on how to pitch ideas so that they could be prepared in front of the judges. This was the first annual event for Western, but Sean West won Macomb's pitch competition in 2018. West was one of the judges during Thursday's competition, alongside Theresa Mangieri, Ken Springer, Anthony Ricco and Lauren Merrit.

The judges selected Elijah Richardson, who presented an idea for a multi-sport complex, as the winner of the competition. Bryce Palmer finished second after pitching an idea for a production company. In no particular order, the other contestants are listed as follows: Alexis Joyner, Zach Glisan, Alexander Whitehurst, Emmanuel Sanchez andTawanda Mberikwazvo.

Casey's and Walmart helped sponsor the event by providing door prizes for members of the audience. Postin thanked Jim Boyd, Diana Blue and Grace Ibirogba for their help with organizingthe competition.

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3 Ways to Discover a Business Idea That Works - entrepreneur.com

Posted: 01 Apr 2019 12:00 AM PDT

A business idea doesn't have to blow people's minds, but it can't make their eyes glaze over, either. Here are three ways to find your entrepreneurial sweet spot.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are plenty of good business ideas floating around, and not all of them are unique. In fact, new companies successfully go to market in saturated industries all the time, and most aren't especially disruptive.

Some just take advantage of a humongous market. Entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space, for instance, know that people will always be hungry and thirsty. Most consumers have countless options to choose from when they want to meet these basic needs, but if a new product stands out -- whether because of superior taste, branding or nutrition -- they'll often reach for it.

Or take the multibillion-dollar market for razors. Entrenched players with colossal advertising budgets had dominated the space for years before Dollar Shave Club came along. And founders Michael Dubin and Mark Levine didn't need to invent a revolutionary new product to grab market share and attract venture capital. Instead, they took a slightly different (and arguably more modern) approach to delivering their products to the market -- via monthly subscription -- and rode the momentum from a viral marketing video to a billion-dollar exit not even five years later.

Dubin and Levine had an idea that was already proven to be viable, and they came up with a unique value proposition to sell it. The quality of their razors and the convenience of their subscription service are the factors that helped them stand out. Easy enough, right?

Related: 8 Common Reasons Why Your Startup Is Going to Fail

The problem is, it's also pretty easy to stumble across nonviable ideas, and plenty of inexperienced founders (and experienced ones) have chosen to pursue the wrong idea. To make sure you don't join their ranks, use three proven ways to arrive at an idea that works:

1. Listen in on social media chatter.

Social media is a great place to discover consumer pain points and needs. Consider Michael Kiel, founder and captain of Boat Planet, who created a Facebook group for boat owners at the Lake of the Ozarks. After hosting the group for a few months, he began to detect a pattern. "I noticed a recurring discussion being posted several times a day," Kiel says. "Boaters were asking for recommendations on whom to trust to work on their boats, docks and boat lifts." That's when he had the idea for his startup: a platform that connects boaters with trusted marine professionals.

You may not be ready to pursue a business idea tomorrow, but you'd be wise to insert yourself into social media communities related to areas you're passionate about today. Join or start a Facebook group, as Kiel did, or look for a subreddit in your area of expertise. Search hashtags or keywords associated with your industry and interests. Instead of scrolling past people's complaints on social media, stop to read them. You never know when a trend could become visible or an idea could strike.

Related: How Humans Relate to Social Media

2. Dwell on your own problems.

Restaurants and grocery stores relieve hunger pangs, and entertainment companies banish boredom. People's lives are full of needs and problems, so entrepreneurs looking for a business idea should spend some time contemplating everything that's wrong with their lives -- seriously. Write a list of all your daily woes, and ask your friends to contribute theirs as well. (Most will be happy to vent!) Not sure this approach will work? Don't say that to the Hangover Helpers. Based in Boulder, Colorado, these two will show up at your house the morning after a wild night, hand you a burrito and Gatorade, then promptly clean every room that suffered damage.

Sound too crazy? Turns out they're doing all right -- you may even have seen them on "Live with Regis and Kelly." Another company, DoodyCalls, will pick up dog waste from your backyard before your next barbecue. Instacart was born of the perennial challenge of finding time to make it to the grocery store. Now the service provides a convenient, affordable solution when you can't squeeze in the trip yourself. Any challenge or inconvenience you face regularly could offer similar potential; you just have to take note of it.

3. Do future you a favor.

Elon Musk is probably the most recognizable entrepreneur on the planet. Love him or hate him, no one can deny he's prolific when it comes to starting companies. You're probably not the next Elon Musk, and you don't have to be. But you can learn something from the way he approaches business.

Related: The Biggest Lesson I Learned Working for Elon Musk at Tesla

Musk thinks about the biggest challenges humanity will face in the future and brainstorms solutions. This colossal-picture approach led to PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and other mind-boggling ventures, and it has also made him a pretty wealthy man. If trying to wrap your head around the fate of the human race makes you feel a little dizzy, start by just thinking about your own future. What problems is the world likely to throw at you down the road? If these same problems seem to apply to more people than just you, they might be the ones you need to begin solving.

Entrepreneurs should take comfort knowing that viable ideas can come from anywhere. Most of these ideas won't be earth-shattering, but some may be. Follow the steps above, and you just might discover the one that could launch your business.

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