Terry College of Business - Fall 2009 - (Page 40)
Entrepreneurs learn the ropes Using an “American Idol” type format to create initial interest, UGA’s “Next Top Extrepreneur” competition crowned its first winning team — and the top eight finishers quickly generated $212,000 in revenue By Matt Waldman (aB ’96) hey came from all over campus — undergraduates and master’s candidates, English majors and biology students. Some had spent years refining their creative skills. Others simply believed they had the right stuff. One thing all 114 UGA students had in common when they congregated at the Student Learning Center last November was the drive to turn their dreams into reality. What they came for was a chance to be a part of “American Idol” — Terry style. The occasion was the inaugural event of UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur, a campus-wide competition that is the brainchild of Terry entrepreneurship program director Chris Hanks (BBA ’90), who says students were initially drawn to the contest with visions of venture capitalists cutting huge checks with their name on it. But what they quickly learned is how much skill and stamina is required to transform creative ideas into a successful marketplace product. “At first, it’s pure enthusiasm,” says Hanks, who enlisted the aid of venture capitalist Rob Bearden to help him put the students through five months of preparatory seminars. “The fact that we have an entrepreneurship presence garners a big response. But when we got down to work, that’s when we started seeing who was really serious.” Step one, says Hanks: Gain a realistic perspective of the commitment required to succeed. “There were times when frustration set in and they weren’t sure they were going to make it,” says Hanks. “Sometimes they weren’t even sure if the business was worthy of pursuing. Most entrepreneurs experience that feeling and these students certainly went through it.” When the dust settled, eight UGA teams faced off in a business plan competition for a prize of $500 and the title of UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur. The winners were a pair of undergrads from Roswell, Ga., who created an iPhone music software application that gained popularity so quickly that it appeared on iTunes’ New and Noteworthy homepage and generated thousands of downloads within weeks of its launch. But thanks to Hanks and Terry, all of the finalists were winners; before the competition phase had even begun, the top eight business ventures had generated $212,000 in combined revenue shortly after opening for business. Top Entrepreneur’s three finalists — Juan Calle and Adam Berlin (SEC Excursions), Adam Balkcom (Anofit), and Hayden Kramer and Wesley Miller (Krasidy LLC) — epitomize what young entrepreneurs are capable of when mentored by an experienced businessman like Hanks, who operates under the umbrella of a forward-thinking B-school like Terry. Adam Balkcom (BBA ’06) was a UGA cheerleader, an experience that led to him giving up his IT job and creating Anofit, a business venture that brings custom-designed fitness programs to individual neighborhoods. When the seminar phase of Top Entrepreneur ended, Anofit had already earned $50,0000 in venture capital. The company has enough monthly revenue to cover costs without dipping into its investment funding, with plans to go nationwide. terry.uga.edu
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