Judge Maurice (Mo) Fahnestock tries out the "Elate" menu reading system during the Fowler Business Concept Challenge November 20, 2015 in Schulze Hall. The competition sees students auditioning their ideas for a business in front of panels of judges with the hopes of winning the $10,000 first prize.

New Ideas Wanted for Fowler Business Concept Challenge

Got a great idea for a new business or social venture? Then you’ll want to check out the Fowler Business Concept Challenge. Open to all St. Thomas students regardless of their field of study, the competition is a chance for students to fully embrace their entrepreneurial spirit.

You don’t need a full business plan to enter, but you will need to provide a description of your concept. Students can compete in two tracks – business concept or social venture.

Senior Sarah Nelson has participated in the Fowler for the last two years. She took third place in the social venture category last year for Project Hal, her business to end unnecessary euthanasia of rescue animals and promote animal adoption. She said taking part in the Fowler was an “incredible” experience.

“It’s a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and pitch an idea,” Nelson, an entrepreneurship major, said about participating in the Fowler. “It’s a great learning opportunity to be able to get up in front of some important people and present your concept – your idea. I think the presentation piece is huge. During lunch, students will get up and do an elevator pitch. To hear what everyone is doing is super neat. First of all, to be able to condense your idea into 30 seconds – that’s a great skill to have. Then to be able to hear what everybody else is thinking about – beyond just presenting – it’s a great way to meet people.”

There’s still plenty of time to get help with your concept. A workshop will be held Tuesday, Oct. 3, from 5:15-6:45 p.m. and help sessions with Dr. Jay Ebben from the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship are set for 10 a.m.-noon every Monday through Oct. 23.

The Fowler Frenzie will take place at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18. During the event, entrepreneurship faculty will be on hand to provide help for students looking to improve their concepts.

The workshop, help sessions and Fowler Frenzie will be held in the Anderson Student Center’s create [space] (ASC115).

Laura Dunham, Ph.D., associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, said the competition is a great way to explore your “inner entrepreneur” and collaborate with other creative students.

“This is a wonderful ‘entry-level’ competition,” Dunham said. “You don’t have to have the kinds of deep skills and experience that is required in a more traditional business plan competition. Rather the competition is focused on ideas and creative thinking, encouraging everyone on campus to address problems they care about with fresh thinking and new concepts. Everyone is welcome to participate – after all, great ideas are everywhere!”

Submissions for the Fowler are due by 11:59 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23. On Friday, Nov. 17, semifinalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Winners will be awarded scholarships. For 2017, the award amounts are higher than ever before. First place will take $15,000 (formerly $10,000); runner-up will receive $7,500 (formerly $5,000); second runner-up will receive $5,000 (formerly $2,500) and third runner-up will receive $2,500.

The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is named for Ron Fowler ’66, chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc. and executive chairman of the San Diego Padres. Gifts to the university from Fowler, Alan and Marcia Bignall, and the Cade family make the annual competition possible.

More information available at Fowler Business Concept Challenge.