Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Did you know that Kansas City is a hotspot for entrepreneurs?

I recently had the privilege (and pleasure) of being a volunteer judge for the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Venture Creation Challenge (VCC).  This annual competition is for business students to learn and exercise real-life business skills by proposing start-up ideas to panels of judges (think Shark Tank) . These are real proposals…not just homework assignments (though the projects are part of the curriculum).

The exciting part is that there were some REALLY good ideas. These ranged from innovative health products (an Easy Strep test in lollipop form for children), to epicurean ketchup.

Out of 150 entries, 65 student venture groups were chosen to take part in the challenge. I was pleased to see students of all ages and backgrounds, representing numerous UMKC programs.  These included traditional business students, MBA candidates (including from the Executive MBA program), and some from the Entrepreneurship Scholars Program (e-Scholars).

For each group, a representative provided a 60-second elevator speech. Then judges were invited to visit booths where business plans, marketing materials and prototypes were put on display. Judges awarded ‘dollars’ as points to determine finalists. Those finalists were given 40 minutes to make a full pitch to panels of judges. From there, 15 venture groups were given various awards.

I was one of nearly 100 judges from all over Kansas City, including business owners, alumni, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. I’m proud to be an alum of the Executive MBA program and to see what a great event the school puts on. I actually took part in the VCC as an EMBA student in 2009 and learned some important lessons. Since then, it is obvious the VCC has blossomed.

“Each year this event grows in size and participation, and the ventures launched by our students reach higher levels of success,” notes Michael Song, Institute executive director.

I’m also proud to be a Kansas Citian. Kansas City is an incubator for entrepreneurism.  We are home to native entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman. His legacy through the Kauffman Foundation perpetuates the spirit of entrepreneurism not only in Kansas City but throughout the world.

The Foundation offers programs and support for entrepreneurs everywhere, and their approach is the epitome of innovation. I love their Sketchbook series in ‘Fast Draw’ fashion that illustrates their programs.

The Good News for today is that we all have the seeds of great ideas in us. And there are many resources to help those with the entrepreneurial spirit succeed. This is so important for our economy and future.

What great ideas do you have? What would you do if you received venture backing? Go ahead, dream big!

For further reading:

Note: Special thanks to Regnier Family Foundations/Bank of Blue Valley for sponsoring this event.

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