Bourgoyne: The importance of pitch competitions

When it comes to developing the next generation of entrepreneurs, the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) is not just sitting back and waiting.  Rather, we have realized the importance of getting involved in the early stages of entrepreneurship, namely, at the college level.  One way that EAP has been able to get involved with regional colleges is through our participation in collegiate pitch competitions.  

We began our involvement with pitch competitions on the campus of LSU Shreveport in 2017.  Since then, we have expanded our pitch competition to include programs at Bossier Parish Community College, University of Louisiana Monroe, University of Louisiana Lafayette, Northwestern State University, Grambling State University, and Centenary College.  It is clear from the rapid growth in participating colleges and universities that the student interest in this type of competition exists on these campuses.  EAP quickly realized the importance of teaching the next generation what it takes to pitch an idea, ensuring that students are prepared for the world of entrepreneurship outside the four walls of the classroom.  

Once the students submit their idea in the competitions, they are then invited to participate in pitch workshops.  Each university has professors and community members who participate in these workshops, offering unique real-world perspectives to the students.  This is also a wonderful opportunity for members of the local entrepreneurial community to become involved in mentoring and sharing their experiences with the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The top five ideas are then selected for final pitches in front of a panel of judges. All five finalists receive mentoring in the week leading up to the final competition. Ultimately, the finalists are competing for prize money sponsored by EAP, with first place receiving $3,000.  The top three finalists also receive six months of EAP services and mentorship.  

Each university’s pitch competition takes place once a year and provides an opportunity to gain experience prior to the statewide competition being offered by University of Louisiana Monroe.  This Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup at ULM seeks to offer a real-world entrepreneur education opportunity for college students.  This competition will also offer one of the largest all-cash prize pools of any collegiate business competition in the country, with a 2023 cash prize pool of $61,000.

There is clearly a large financial incentive for students to participate and win the statewide pitch competition being offered by ULM, and EAP seeks to provide students with an opportunity to prepare through local collegiate pitch competitions.   

While this may seem like a small part of what EAP does, the reality is that the education of the next generation of entrepreneurs in the region is critical to the continued success of not only the region but the state.  EAP’s partnership with Louisiana’s universities allows us to connect with the schools’ faculty and staff so we can coordinate these competitions across schools and the state.

EP Bourgoyne, project coordinator, EAP 

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