In a recent entrepreneurial competition, Northern Kentucky University brought home four of the nine total awards.
The fifth annual Idea State U, which is hosted by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, showcased 24 new business ideas, which were competing for a total prize purse of $100,000. More than 70 students made up the 24 teams, all from Kentucky public universities. The reason for NKU's success, Fifth Third Entrepreneurship Institute
director Eileen Weisenbach says, is the work the students do outside the classroom.
"We're an institute, which means we have a lot of things outside the curriculum that we use to develop students into entrepreneurs," Weisenbach says. "We include our students in the development of things like school-wide competitions. These kinds of events create the spokes that make an environment that is energetically pursing innovation."
Three out of the four teams that represented NKU were given awards. Social Circles was awarded the second largest prize of $24,711 for their social networking platform that provides recommendations based on past activities and interests. Inxpression, a business that allows customers to design their own shirts in a matter of minutes, was awarded the third largest prize of $11,533. Inxpression also took home the Governor's Innovation Award, a prize that goes to the most innovative thinking in a business plan. Line Scout, a cloud-based software application that streamlines restaurant management, was awarded $1,583.
"It's easy to get stuck in a rut as a student," Weisenbach says. "This kind of competition allows students to get that external validation and really work for something."
The prize money must be used for business expenses and to incorporate businesses in the state of Kentucky. Inxpressions has already used their prize money to hire a patent attorney and get a design patent for their unique machine.
Weisenbach contributes much of the success of the students to the staff at NKU. "We have a faculty that really tries to connect with students on a one-on-one basis," she says. "Everyone invests in their students, and it really shows."
While Weisenbach believes the success at Idea State U will bring recognition and attention to NKU, she also knows the competition is good for students throughout the state.
"This kind of success really helps us in three ways," she says. "We can recruit more students, get more state funding and get more lenders and employers to come check out our school when they see the caliber of students we have."
By Evan Wallis