By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
“I don’t know if I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I sure do now.”
We hear that over and over from the college and university students who participate in the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, Oklahoma’s statewide collegiate business plan competition.
In this 13th year of the competition (formerly the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup), student teams from across the state have submitted a record 58 business plans in both High Growth and Small Business divisions.
Why is this milestone so important? Because we are building a pipeline of entrepreneurs and future employees who think entrepreneurially to be the engines of job and wealth creation across Oklahoma for years to come.
In the High Growth division, student entrepreneurs are tackling problems — both big and small — from around the world. Their plans address major health issues like a chewing gum that can provide early detection of the HIV, a solar generator, infrastructure for electric-powered buses, portable calving sheds for ranchers and high-impact absorbing materials used in safety equipment.
In the four years since the Small Business division was added, participation has grown from eight teams to 31. Entrepreneurial interest and inspiration are bubbling up from non-research campuses, two-year colleges and private regional universities — and the business plans we are seeing from these schools are phenomenal.
Imagine an antimicrobial rinse directed toward protecting against foodborne illnesses or an automated practice partner for hockey players. Student teams have written plans for a solution that eliminates the hassle of de-shedding a pet, solar-powered outdoor charging stations and affordable technology solutions for people with motor control and communication difficulties.
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores became the Signature Sponsor of the competition last year. Love’s is all about entrepreneurship. A local family-owned and operated entrepreneurial company started in the 1960s as a true Oklahoma “mom and pop,” today Love’s employs 17,000 people with revenues of $14.2 billion. What an example for Oklahoma’s young entrepreneurs who are going to be in the position of shaking up industries and creating jobs.
Love’s is a great example for other local corporations and businesses to recognize the importance of this kind of opportunity for our state and to directly support the development of tomorrow’s talent, as are our longtime sponsors, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, OG&E and IBM.
Each year this competition grows, which means more students just might be telling themselves and their advisers, “I don’t know if I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I do now.”
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.