By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
Jody Walker walked away a big winner after the second annual SpringBoard Ideas Challenge awards dinner Saturday. The senior finance major from New Braunfels joined two other contestants who won $7,500 each for their business plans in the student, community pre-revenue and community post-revenue categories.
Walker’s mini-business plan stemmed from watching his father, a coach, stay up late to filter through tapes of games and players. Walker thought, “Why not use the Internet?”
“I asked a bunch of people, different coaches,” Walker said. “No one had ever done this before, so I thought it would be a good idea.”
The awards dinner capped off the annual competition, which challenges participants from the ACU and Abilene communities to develop their own mini-business plans. This year, the competition awarded $40,000 in prize money to 16 winning competitors. Ryan Stephen, senior finance major from Houston and SpringBoard student planner, said the event included an estimated 225 people in attendance and featured Harvard graduate and entrepreneur Dr. Chris Kersey, who serves as a managing member and partner of Camden Partners Holdings, LLC. Kersey spoke on the topic, “What they don’t teach at Harvard about entrepreneurship.”
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be an entrepreneur, including who is an entrepreneur, what skill sets you need to be an entrepreneur and what it takes over the long term to be a successful entrepreneur,” Kersey said. “You don’t learn everything at an Ivy League college. A lot of life’s lessons are through real life experiences.”
Kersey’s advice in his speech for budding entrepreneurs included a list of four goals: 1) Find a mentor. 2) Be the contrary, or propose the different, inventive idea 3) Fail forward, or learn and benefit from unsuccessful endeavors. 4) Network.
Kersey said the one tip he hoped students would take from him is a determination he adopted from Winston Churchill’s famous “Never give up” speech given during World War II.
“It would be fantastic if the budding entrepreneurs in this group took a great experience at SpringBoard, went back to their classmates and started nurturing other entrepreneurial ideas,” Kersey said. “I just really want to encourage students that your ideas are going to evolve over time. Keep at it. Better ideas will come. Listen to the folks around you, tweak those ideas and if you do, the world is your oyster.”
Also speaking at the event were master of ceremonies Dr. Richard S. Lytle, dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration; Michael L. Monhollon, dean of HSU’s Kelly School of Business; Abilene Mayor Pro Tem Sam Chase; Matt Boisvert, SpringBoard faculty adviser and marketing instructor at ACU; Jim Porter, entrepreneur-in-residence for ACU’s College of Business Administration; and Dan Garrett, vice chancellor and president of the ACU Foundation.
Stephen said he hoped the diversity among the speakers helped extend interest for the dinner beyond the ACU community.
“We had a great response from the community,” Stephens said. “Our goal was to make sure it felt like much more than an ACU event, and I think that goal was definitely accomplished.”