With submissions due by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 26, the annual Fowler Business Concept Challenge is upon us and this year the stakes are significantly higher. Last year, eight teams made the finals and received scholarships. This year, up to 32 teams will receive scholarships of at least $1,000 per team with finalists receiving up to $15,000. For those with an innovative idea for a new business or social venture, this entrepreneurship competition is an opportunity to take the first step toward making it a reality and possibly winning a scholarship.
The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is about sparking innovation and entrepreneurship in business and social ventures. The competition is open to all currently enrolled University of St. Thomas undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is not just for business majors. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to compete individually or as a team. Last year’s field included teams representing 28 unique academic disciplines campuswide. The entrepreneurship competition is segmented into two tracks, one for traditional for-profit concepts and another for social ventures that address significant social problems.
Andrew Daily ’21 made it to the business track finals last year with his concept Towel Tags, a system of water-resistant, color-coded identifiers that clip onto any towel using embedded magnets. To Daily, the benefits of participating go well beyond the scholarship. “Competing in the 2019 Fowler Business Concept Challenge was the highlight of my school year,” he said. “The opportunities to connect with judges, present solo onstage as a finalist, and walk away feeling encouraged in my entrepreneurship endeavors was priceless. I’m very grateful to the Fowlers for their continued generosity and commitment to St. Thomas.”
Abenezer Ayana ’21 and his team from BraillEasy placed second in the social venture track last year. The team went on to compete in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, winning several awards including Most Socially Innovative. “Since winning second place at the 2019 Fowler Business Concept Challenge, BraillEazy has grown astronomically with the support of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship,” he said. “We’ve gained access to SEED SPOT and gALPHA venture-creation programs, pro bono legal help through LegalCORPS, and ample mentorship and resource assistance. This support helped us finish in the top five at the 2020 Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge finals and continue our stride to innovate solutions for the blind.”
Participants will have several opportunities to get feedback on their concepts from experienced mentors prior to the Oct. 26 deadline for submission. For additional information regarding submission, eligibility or resources, visit the Fowler Business Concept Challenge homepage.