As graduation nears, some college students plan to pursue graduate school, or enter the traditional workforce at entry-level positions. However, this is not the reality for the majority of students who’ve won the seed round of the Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition. These students defy the typical first-job-out-of-college experience and will work as their own bosses right after graduation.
“[The Stumberg competition] runs year-long [and] in the spring we have an open call to all Trinity students and alumni within one year of graduation,” said Luis E. Martinez, entrepreneurship director. “During the winter and sort of the spring, you have an opportunity to submit your idea or company that gets evaluated by a sort of tier of judges that determines whether or not there’s a sort of “˜it’ there.”
This first round of competition allows undergraduate students and one-year alumni to pitch their business ideas to a panel of five judges. The judges then choose five winners from this year’s pool of 16 teams that are categorized as one of two tracks: international or national businesses. After the final five teams are chosen, they work tirelessly over the summer with mentors and Trinity faculty to perfect their business models and to turn their dreams into reality.
“This is [these student entrepreneurs’] thing. There are athletes, social club members, artists and for these students, their “˜thing’ is entrepreneurship.” Martinez said. “Some of the teams that competed in this year’s 2017 seed round include the fashionable “˜frockets’ (front-pockets) designed by POK-IT, affordable ways to eat out provided by EatsInTown and customizable cake pop arrangements made by Baking Brittney. These were just three out of 16 teams that competed.”
The 5 teams who won the Seed Round of this spring semester include Baking Brittney, POK-IT, Dbuntu, Modern Knights and Rapi Renta. These teams will receive a seed prize of $5,000, shared office space of $1,200 and the Summer Accelerator of $8,164. The teams will work on the Trinity campus throughout the summer with Trinity professors and community mentors who are actively engaged in San Antonio’s business community.
One of the winners, Brittney Bowman, a senior accounting and entrepeneurship double major, had an advantage, as she had worked on her company since high school.
“I started making cake pops in high school and officially titled the business “˜Baking Brittney’ my sophomore year of college, but I have never done it full time because it’s hard to manage a business where you have to make orders the day before they are due but then juggle that schedule with being a full-time student and being involved on campus.” Bowman said. “So I’ve really just done this on the side with the plans to fully launch after I graduate, which will be this May.”
Bowman plans to use the $5,000 to help her develop an online business.
“I plan on using the money to rent commercial kitchen space. Currently I am operating under Texas Cottage Law, but the biggest restriction to this is that I have to do face-to-face transactions. Using a commercial kitchen would allow me to do all my transactions online, which is the other thing that I would use the money for which is to develop my website,” Bowman said.
As an entrepeneurship major, Bowman has been exposed to Stumberg before; her experience was beneficial and reminded her about her passion for the program.
“I’ve worked for the department since freshman year and I’ve helped build it into what it is today. It’s kind of nice that I was able to go out my senior year as one of the winners in the competition that I saw be built in front of me. I was able to see this department grow and I gave my heart and soul to it, so it was fitting that it gave something so special to me,” Bowman said.
The founder and CEO of POK-IT, Diego Trevino, described the significance of this competition as one that prioritizes building a stronger entrepreneurship community within Trinity.
“The people who care were very nervous. If you care, you notice how very important this is. The $5,000, of course it is very important, but also being able to stay here [at Trinity] over the summer, being paid to do work for your business, getting your dorm paid for is so much easier [than managing the money and company on your own]. The chance to have your team work together [at Trinity], it’s so helpful,” Trevino said.
After this seed round, the seed prizes were awarded, which will allow the teams to prepare to compete for the largest prize ($25,000). This prize is a grant given by the Stumberg Competition’s donors and supporters. The prize money from both rounds of the competition has benefitted all of the past competitors.
“Currently, all of the finalists in the previous years are still functioning businesses.” Martinez said. “Last year, all five Stumberg prize finalists are currently all still operating.”
Trevino believes that the fresh slate college offers is the best chance to explore the possibility of establishing a new business.
“College is the perfect moment for someone who is trying to open a business.” Trevino said. “The learning experience you get from opening your business in college is more important than the failure.”
Many students and recent graduates who plan to pursue their business ideas right now are not weighted down by the various responsibilities of the real world. Some are supported by parents and are not engaged in full-time jobs, which makes college the perfect time for the pursuit of a dream.
“My faovirte quote is, “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers, but most of all the world needs dreamers who do. I think this sums up the Stumberg competition pretty well,” Trevino said.