Millikin event helps turn innovative ideas into possible businesses
On Friday evening, Nov. 9, when most students took a break from their classwork, a number of aspiring business owners came to Shortcut to Startup, an event held at Millikin University's Center for Entrepreneurship co-working hub at BLDD Architects in downtown Decatur (Ill.).
Open to the community, Shortcut to Startup is a continuous event that goes for 48 hours. It's an immersive environment where students pitch business ideas and self-organize into teams to develop and test their concepts.
The event is overseen seen by Agile 4 Entrepreneurship, a student-run organization through the Center of Entrepreneurship "that utilizes agile to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship at Millikin University," as mentioned on their official social media accounts. Agile 4 Entrepreneurship students work closely with Millikin students to encourage them to identify problems, generate creative and monetizable solutions, and test their viability in a quick and low-cost manner.
A variety of majors were represented at the event, from entrepreneurship and business management to biology and commercial music. The weekend started with an icebreaker as the students practiced how to pitch their business ideas on the fly. Following the icebreaker exercise, students would have another round of pitches that included their own business ideas to which the students would vote on which businesses could be further developed.
After votes were tallied, 2001 Millikin graduate and BLDD Director of Marketing Jessica Whitlock went over the agenda for the next 48 hours, along with guidelines for how to create, build, and pitch a business model. With a prize of $4,000 on the line to fund the winning business model, there was a lot at stake for the students, but Whitlock reminded the group, "It's not about the outcome, it's about the process."
On Saturday, Nov. 10, students worked together to refine their ideas, develop a business model and build a prototype. As part of the finale on Sunday, Nov. 11, students pitched business concepts they created in front of judges.
Daniel Rivera, a senior business management major, credits the program for building his passion for business and entrepreneurship. Before Shortcut to Startup, the Center of Entrepreneurship took part in the global event Startup Weekend. After participating in Startup Weekend during his first year at Millikin, Rivera, along with colleagues, decided to create their own event for students that offered an open and engaging environment to create, develop, and build business models and prototypes.
Rivera says, "Going to that first event and creating a business started my passion for entrepreneurship. My colleagues and I used those entrepreneurial skills to create our own event to give something back to Millikin and the community."
Formerly named Launch Weekend, Millikin teamed up with BLDD to help students and the community come together to create new, innovative ideas that could build into businesses.
Laura Nearing, a senior biology major with a minor in Spanish and chemistry, has been involved with Shortcut to Startup since it first began three semesters ago. In her first year, Nearing and colleagues won for a business model called BluePoint Connections. Today, BluePoint Connections is making a difference by connecting businesses to qualified Millikin students to fulfill need-based work and internships as well as helping local companies with marketing initiatives.
Nearing believes that this opportunity is unique and encourages all students, no matter their major, to participate in Shortcut to Startup.
"This is really special to me because I'm not a business or entrepreneurship major; I'm a biology major. I happened to go one year and it brought out my passion for entrepreneurship. By going outside my comfort zone, I found something that I'm comfortable with and is second nature to me," Nearing says. "I always wanted to be a veterinarian because I learned how to be a doctor through my major. But now, I hope to open my own clinic, because through this program I learned how to be an entrepreneur."
At the end of the event, each business received seed funding with the most funding going to Chocolate in Your Pocket, a local music group.