Monday, June 17, 2024

Students grow entrepreneurial ecosystem and fuel economic development

by BIZ Magazine

Nearly six years after BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) held its first student business pitch competition in Northwest Louisiana, college students now have an even better chance to become a success in their home state.

“EAP and our higher education partners created the region’s first student business pitch competitions in 2017 with the knowledge that small businesses make up the majority of Louisiana’s employers and have the potential to accelerate economic growth in the future,” said Dave Smith, Executive Director of EAP. “We now have grown a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem of forward-thinking angel investors, leadership and faculty in higher education, and business executives who are helping ensure student innovators have every opportunity to launch a business here.”

According to Smith, Louisiana’s higher education institutions are putting more emphasis than ever on curricula that better prepare students for entrepreneurship — and creating and fulfilling their own dreams.

“The conversation has evolved. Students studying business in our state’s colleges and universities aren’t just hearing about how to pursue their future career success by landing a corporate job,” said Smith. “Instead, they’re learning they can realize their dreams in a different way — by launching their own companies.”

EAP has co-presented over 30 student business pitch competitions at the undergraduate and graduate levels in North Louisiana and Lafayette since 2017. This spring, for the first time, regional competition winners competed for over $60,000 in cash prizes at the Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup hosted by The University of Louisiana Monroe.

The winning team from this statewide competition, called Rise & Rotate of Northwestern State University (NSU), has been building a new business around a unique medical device that was created to solve a real-world problem to help patients at risk of falling. It is now patented, FDAapproved and ready for commercialization.

“We had the opportunity to compete in the Inferno Pitch at NSU, which prepared us to compete at the largest pitch competition in the state, the Pelican Cup,” said Rise & Rotate Team Leader Matthew Gamble. “These competitions, along with the faculty at NSU providing leadership and support, enabled us to bring a product into the industry that we believe the world needs and pushed us to succeed as entrepreneurs.”

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