Students kick off Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

With $40,000 waiting to be won, students and local entrepreneurs gathered Thursday night at the Marriott Library for the kickoff meeting of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.

Now in its sixth year, the challenge is a business competition hosted by the Utah Entrepreneur Center. Competitors must form teams, create a business idea and clearly demonstrate how they will turn their ideas into profitable ventures.

Students are aided by a number of resources, namely a series of forums that offer in-depth coverage of marketing, accounting and other business-related subjects.

Thursday’s meeting also overlapped with the center’s speaker series, as internationally recognized author and corporate mentor Charles Coonradt gave a presentation regarding the importance of feedback in the workplace.

“These resources help students bridge the gap between the classroom and real business,” said Challenge Committee Chair Brian Wells.

“This is no simulation, and there is a lot of money on the line.”

With more than $200,000 available in cash and prizes, the competition attracts a large number of participants. Last year more than 200 teams competed, with the grand prize going to Tropicool, a Popsicle business that now operates in numerous Utah and Arizona locations.

However, it’s not just about the prize money, according to 2001 winner Tim Hunt.

“If I had to make a choice between the prize money and the knowledge I gained in the process, I’d choose the knowledge in a second,” Hunt said.

“It really filled the holes that couldn’t be covered in the classroom.”

Much of this experience is achieved through the use of in-kind services. Local firms and businesses have donated their time and expertise to help teams with accounting, taxes and other intangible business necessities.

Structure and business alone, however, won’t win the competition. The idea behind the venture can make or break a potential business.

“How innovative the team’s idea is plays a large role in their success,” Wells said. “Yes, you need to have structure and professionalism, but originality will give you that edge that you need to succeed.”

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