By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Last week, during the celebratory gala for the 2017 Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, the same thing happened to me that happens every year. I was completely inspired by the students who participate in Oklahoma’s premier collegiate business plan competition.
They are the best of the best — the kind of people that companies in Oklahoma, and for that matter around the world, want to hire. And the kind of people who want to take the leap and start companies of their own.
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores became the signature sponsor of the Love’s Cup after last year’s competition. The importance and impact of their commitment and leadership cannot be overstated.
Love’s was founded by entrepreneurs. Jenny Love Meyer informed the audience at the gala that entrepreneurial culture and mindset not only endures, but permeates the company. The people at Love’s will tell you that entrepreneurial spirit is the force behind their success — that and their dedication to their customers, employees and to the communities where Love’s employees and customers work and live.
It’s only natural that Love’s recognizes the potential in these students — and the students are inspired by Love’s. Love’s is the gold standard of Oklahoma entrepreneurship.
We kick off the Love’s Cup during the fall with a full-day seminar called “Who Wants to Be an Entrepreneur.” After that, students form teams and figure out an idea for a business plan. They do the research, create the financial projections, and perform market validation to build a product that their target customers would want to buy.
They learn how to talk to investors and how to seek out and take the advice from mentors and industry experts. They figure out how to work as a team and how to delegate. In the service of entrepreneurship, they do things they’ve never done before.
They take what they’ve learned in classrooms and labs and apply it to the real world. And while they are doing that, they are taking classes, making grades, and many of them are holding down jobs.
In 2017, the Love’s Cup attracted a record number of students with wide representation from across the state. Teams came from the full breadth of Oklahoma’s learning institutions, from research campuses to two-year colleges and private regional universities.
For many of these students, this is their first encounter with Oklahoma’s business community. For the Love’s Cup teams, there’s nothing more important than the people skills they build during this competition and the connections they develop — to team members, to advisers, and even to potential future investors.
More than 35 plans have gone on to become i2E clients. Other participants enter established businesses. Either way, it’s Oklahoma’s gain.
I don’t know about you, but it is nice to be inspired by the next generation of leaders. With the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, that’s a guarantee. When it comes to success stories, the Love’s Cup sets the bar.
It’s inspiration by the gallon.
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.