Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
Every year, the Gustie Entrepreneurship Cup showcases our brightest entrepreneurs for a chance to present to a panel of mentors with the opportunity to win a share of up to $15,000 in seed funding for their startup endeavors. The event will be held on May 13 in Beck Academic Hall. The event brings together faculty, coaches, and alumni to support and mentor young entrepreneurial students in developing their ideas and making them a plausible reality.
“These ideas may not be the biggest, money-making, change-the-world idea, but an idea nonetheless. We created an opportunity to really help onboard students to a new culture around entrepreneurship that really integrated complete access,” Professor Katie Boone said.
The first-place winner of the Cup will automatically advance to the semi-finals of the Minnesota Cup and will be eligible to win additional prize money.
“Last year was my first time competing in the Gustie Cup, and it was a whirlwind! Getting up on stage was nerve-racking for me, but it was all worth it once I got up there. It was so much fun being creative and having complete control of what my product was. I could do all the marketing and create visuals that told a story about my product RecoverMe. Overall the Gustie Cup launched my product further than I could ever do alone, and I am excited to show everyone how far RecoverMe has come in one year,” Senior Maddy Rice said.
The event gives students the opportunity to develop a business idea to solve real-world problems, use real data, and implement important research in order to create a feasible business model. The school is offering two unique program opportunities. The main goal of the staff is to increase access and equity for all students interested in starting a business.
The two program opportunities include the Startup Lab and Pitch Night. The Startup Lab is a 90-minute workshop for students to explore their business plan and see how likely their business is to succeed. The event is a completely confidential learning space that gives students the confidence and support they need before pitching their business idea. This program is offered twice per month in February, March, and April as a prerequisite to applying to the Gustie Cup. “At the Startup Lab, I came in with just an idea. So just with my idea alone, we worked on identifying the market, doing some market research and analysis, how I was going to go about that, product research and analysis, and we worked on why I was so motivated with this idea and what led to this idea,” First-year and Gustie Cup participant Tison Werner said.
The second program they offer is a Pitch Night, which is another 90-minute workshop where students are able to give their pitch to an audience and receive feedback and critiques before their final pitch on May 13. This program is designed to give students more practice and helpful tips in order to perfect their business pitch and bring it to the next level and also have them think about their story for this business idea.
“It is kind of a little bit of a pitch/story workshop where students get more clear about who they are, why they are doing what they are doing, and what this is all about,” Boone said.
The students have been working extremely hard to get their ideas ready for the Cup coming up. “These are not students that are getting extra credit, this is not a class assignment, these are real students bringing their real ideas into the real world. That has been a really key distinction in what we are going to see this year. These are students that are actively starting their business or working to validate and launch their business. That has been a joy to see, that there are students at all different ages and stages of their higher ed journey at Gustavus coming together with a common goal,” Boone said.
Awards for the event will include the scalable category which are innovative ideas that are scalable to larger and broader markets and the sustainable category which are community-based business ideas that could provide a student a livelihood after graduation. Individuals can win prize money for developing either a for-profit venture or a social entrepreneurial endeavor. “My favorite thing has been being able to meet all of the amazing people, Katie and Bethany are just lovely and they really have the passion and desire to do this kind of work for the Gustie Cup and for Gustavus. Through them, I have been able to meet Matt, my Gustie Cup mentor, who is a great person and does IPOs and different things like that. I have been able to partner with my business partner in Mankato as well as different investors who have taken interest in my company which has just been amazing,” Werner said.
The connections, relationships, and opportunities that come through the Gustie Entrepreneurship Cup help create long-lasting life skills that students can carry with them long after their time as a Gustie is done.