The popular show “Shark Tank” has a simple premise: find a solution to a problem and if you can make money off of it, you may find yourself leaving the show with an investor.
This premise opened the eyes of Northwest Vista College students who put their Shark Tank skills to use last semester. The Northwest Vista College Discovery & Innovative Competition offered a platform for students to pursue an idea, innovation or discovery project they were passionate about. Working in collaboration with faculty mentors, students developed their idea over three rounds of training to create a written business proposal and then give a presentation in front of judges.
Instead of investors, four students received seed money from Alamo Colleges’ The Learning Company to execute their projects. The winners also received an opportunity to attend “The Future Festival” earlier in July in Philadelphia which focused on the development of ideas. In addition to The Learning Company, the NVC Student Activity fee provided prize money for the top four winners of the competition.
“The Future Festival gave us a unique opportunity to understand some of the biggest trends affecting our business, life, and the world. Before the conference, we knew that research helps us formulate our strategy for any project or decision,” said Calvin Fogle, assistant professor & program coordinator of the NVC Business & Entrepreneurship Institute. “But we did not know about the extent and efficiency of research that companies are able to do with data analytics.”
For the students involved in this project, some will never forget it, such as Analisa Rojas, who created Studipedia, which has the goal to create short college videos tailored to a specific course. She’s hoping to solve the problem that most study videos are too general. As part of the process, Analisa had to write a reflection of her experience:
“This phenomenal journey, that started with a concept idea and morphed into the incubation stage for my presentation, was an educational voyage that tested my motivational endurance, pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and taught me the value of entrepreneurship,” said Analisa who won the grand prize of $1,000 and will begin implementing her business with the help of the seed money.
Three other students won prize money provided by the NVC Student Activity Fee: Farhana Khan won the second-place prize of $900, Adrian Arevalo received the third-place prize of $800, and Shantal Rivera snagged the fourth-place prize of $700.
Two of the winning student proposals focused on reducing plastic waste and recycling, and the other business proposal is a digital application for the eye care industry.
Calvin said the competition was targeted to students in Institute of Health and Biosciences, Institute of Creative & Communication Arts, Institute of Science & Technology, and the Institute of Business & Entrepreneurial students.
He added students also received content-specific training and were shown how to prepare budgets, and how to manufacture and market a product. He said a huge thank you goes to the NVC Business Council, and The Learning Company, which is a collaboration between the Alamo Colleges and local business leaders to train the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.
“We created the competition to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the classroom with a platform for students to pursue an idea they are passionate about,” Calvin added. “A lot of times we don’t see our impact, but reading the reflection papers by the students provided us some good feedback of our attempt to expand innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Contest winner Farhana Khan wrote in her reflection paper:
“When the Discovery and Innovation Competition was first announced earlier this spring at Northwest Vista College, I was sure not to participate in it. I assumed that competitions like that are for scientists or business-oriented people. However, during the spring 2019 Faculty and Student Mixer, Professor (Ralph) Mendez asked a simple question, ‘Do you see a problem around you?’ That question made a lot of students start sharing ideas during the event. I took out my pen and paper and started writing the issues that I always wanted to fix. Within a week, I had six to seven problems and possible solutions for them.
Still, I was not sure how far I would go. But I knew that there is a 100% chance of failure if I don’t try. The experience of going through the idea formation and business plan, although painful at times, is well worth the effort. It conditions the participants to be solution finders, not whiners.”
NVC faculty are already preparing for the next competition, which will have sign up dates of Aug. 26 to Sept. 15. Winners will travel to an entrepreneurship conference in New Orleans in January. For questions, email Calvin Fogle at [email protected]