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Student entrepreneurs get creative at Startup Weekend

November 2016

Elizabeth Jenike

Over the weekend of October 7 through 9, a cloud of innovation hung over Oxford.

Startup Weekend, the annual event that allows burgeoning entrepreneurs to put their creativity caps to the test, is an intense, 48-hour experience supported by upper-level entrepreneurship students and successful entrepreneurs. Students come in with startup ideas, get grouped into teams and go to town with the eventual goal of bringing the businesses in their minds to fruition.

The weekend works like a competition. Students bring their best ideas to the table, then work in 15 or 16 teams to create the business and marketing strategies for their companies. They even conduct interviews with people from their target demographic - the townsfolk of Oxford. In other words, instead of using made-up numbers to imagine the scope of their projects, these students use real consumer research that they collect themselves. They have just under two days to take their projects from a seed in their minds to a viable business strategy.

“My team connected well and everyone was completely focused on the mission,” said interactive media studies major and entrepreneurship minor Jacob Hammerle, who was part of the winning team. “Startup Weekend brought out a hustle inside of me that I did not know existed.”

At the end of the harrowing 48 hours, the students present their ideas before a panel of judges, who then choose a winner. This year, the top team won the opportunity to experience one of the Cincinnati-based startup accelerators and got the chance to go to San Francisco for the digital innovation Study Away program. Each team, regardless of their standing at the end, is encouraged to go beyond Startup Weekend and take their ideas to the next level.

“I think the most valuable aspect of Startup Weekend is really figuring out if you have what it takes to join the startup life,” Jacob said. “The startup life is not as glamorous as it is made out to be. It takes a lot of work. Most of the time there is nobody to answer your questions and you have to learn to become a great problem solver.”

“The school has so many resources that the students don't even know about that are so valuable, and getting to take advantage of those resources was incredible,” said Melissa Johnson, a junior architecture major and entrepreneurship minor, whose team placed second in the competition. “We probably wouldn't have gotten to where we did without them.”

For Cody Cowgill, a junior finance major and entrepreneurship minor, it was his third year involved with the program. His freshman year, he participated in Startup Weekend as a contestant; his sophomore year, he served as a peer mentor. This year, he was part of the team of students organizing the event.

“With moving to the other side, first as a peer mentor and then as a student organizer, it’s been cool to watch the teams grow,” Cody said. “I got to see what the coaches said for each team and helped tackle the challenges of the weekend itself.”

Congratulations to the winning teams!

1st Place: Lilac
“A sales platform that allows sales associates to connect customer's online data to the in-store experience."

  • Kimberly Aguekum
  • Vince Zenner
  • Adam Shadi
  • Sean King
  • Jacob Hammerle
  • Harrison Bergman
  • 2nd Place: Suntaa
    "Providing breast exams and breast cancer awareness in Ghana through the sale of handcrafted bras."

  • Melissa Johnson
  • Stephanie Domijan
  • Rachel Van Fleet
  • Marissa Alsip
  • Arcadia Davies
  • 3rd Place: Right Step (People’s Choice Award)
    "A producer of piezo-electric tiles used to utilize human energy through walking.”

  • Dylan Roskin
  • Daniel Pfeil
  • Steve Knitter
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