Last week at the New York Stock Exchange, six extraordinary students sat nervously around a corner table waiting for their chance to strut their stuff in front of more than 30 judges. This was the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) East Coast Regional Finals, and one of the toughest semi-final rounds in the world. With unemployment at a steady 9.6% and no end in site, some students aren’t taking any chances and paving their own paths.
These extraordinary GSEA finalists all share the challenges of running revenue generating businesses, making payroll, generating new business in a tumultuous economy, and dealing with client issues –all while attending colleges and universities full time. The East Coast competitors included a UNC, Chapel Hill senior running a customer service software company; a Washington University St. Louis junior who developed a “tween” social networking site at the age of 15; a Syracuse University senior managing a an online skill gaming portal; a Babson College serial entrepreneur who manufactures energy efficient lighting solutions; a Rhode Island School of Design junior with a film production and graphic design company; and a Virginia Commonwealth University senior running a cheerleading consulting company for low income families. That only showcases some of the diversity of companies in the competition.
For over a decade the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards has brought together top student entrepreneurs in competition and friendship, to learn and grow as business leaders. Produced by the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), the program fits into a larger global picture of promoting and increasing participation in entrepreneurship around the globe. This is achieved by supporting business owners at all levels of the entrepreneurial continuum, from ideation, to development and growth, and eventually to mentoring younger entrepreneurs. Successful students in GSEA can progress into EO Accelerator, for businesses of $250,000-$1M, and then to EO, for businesses with US $1M and up. It is this mentorship and connections between seasoned entrepreneurs and young start-ups that are crucial for the progression of the entrepreneurial continuum.
Soon, on November 17th the top 30 of these student entrepreneurs from around the world will descend on the Kauffman Foundation’s Headquarters in Kansas City to compete for the title of Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year, and over $150,000 in cash and professional services. To get there, students have surpassed more than 1,800 nominees who developed over 360 lengthy applications, and participated in regional finals in over 40 countries around the world – and it all comes down to one inspirational winner.
University: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Current City: Chapel Hill, NC
About EvoApp: EvoApp is a customer service tool that helps companies measure, monitor, and analyze employee activities in an effort to generate sales opportunities, transforming everyday interactions into revenue channels. Continuing to grow despite the economic climate, Davy hired 8 new employees since March. The company and its employees maintain a commitment to charitable causes including volunteer work and a company donation to Nourish International.
About Joseph Davy: Joseph is a graduating senior at UNC majoring in both Economics and Computer Engineering. He currently advises various boards including the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, where he attended high school, UNC Chapel Hill, and Borderless Books, an Africa-based book distributor.
University: Washington University in St. Louis
Current City: Old Greenwich, CT
Company: Miss O and Friends
About Miss O and Friends: Managed by girls and for girls, Miss O and Friends is an online social community aiming to build self-esteem in “tween” girls between Barbie and Britney (ages 8-14). The community spills out into the offline work with articles, books derived from user generate content, and other branded offerings. The company also has a nonprofit with a vision to provide financial, informational, publicity, and other support for tween girls and the organizations focused on tween girls.
About Juliette Brindak: Juliette is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to being CEO of Miss O and Friends, she is a reporter on “Tween Trends” for TDMonthly Magazine. After years of drawing her ideal “cool girls,” she co-founded the company with her sister, mom and other girls at the age of 15.
University: Syracuse University
Current City: Mahanoy City, NY
Company Name: SkillAddiction
About SkillAddiction: SkillAddiction is an online skill gaming portal where thousands of players from over 150 countries connect and compete in casual gaming tournaments to win cash and prizes. In an industry where skill gaming has been traditionally centralized across three providers, SkillAddiction has begun introducing innovative technologies and expanding the market potential.
About Ray Williams: Ray is enrolled at Syracuse University’s Martin J Whitman School of Management and will graduate this year with a B.S. in Finance. He founded SkillAddiction in 2009 with one simple idea: “do it better.”
University: Babson College
Current City: Allston, Massachusetts
Company Name: ThinkLite
About ThinkLite: ThinkLite provides money-saving, green lighting solutions for businesses, while maintaining their aesthetic appeal. ThinkLite’s unique revenue model is based solely on the monthly savings generated for the client. To date, ThinkLite has saved 50 customers more than $200,000 in inefficient lighting costs, and saved the planet over 1,800 lbs of carbon emissions.
About Dinesh Wadhwani: Born in India and raised in Ghana, Dinesh became an entrepreneur at 14, and is currently working toward a B.S. in Finance and Entrepreneurship. In addition to ThinkLite, he owns and runs Wadhsoft Inc., a fast growing software and web design company in Accra, Ghana, is founder of the Global Entrepreneurship Resource Institute, a non-profit that provides tools and networking to budding entrepreneurs, and serves on the board of DanDin Realty Services, a Boston-based real estate company.
University: Rhode Island School of Design
Current City: Washington, DC
Company: Julian Marshall Multimedia
About Julian Marshall Multimedia: Julian Marshall Multimedia (JMM) is a film production and graphic design company specializing in short films, commercials, music videos, graphic design, and web design. JMM employs college students as well as young adults, and maintains a roster of clients including Benihana Restaurant, Intelius, VOB BMW, and Camp of Champions.
About Julian Marshall: Born and raised in Washington DC, Julian is currently a student of Rhode Island School of Design, class of ’12. He founded Julian Marshall Multimedia in 2009, the same summer he interned for Shepard Fairey.
University: Virginia Commonwealth University
Current City: Richmond, VA
Company: More than Cheer
About More Than Cheer: More Than Cheer is a cheerleading consulting company that provides individual and small group instruction in the form of camps, clinics, and classes for cheerleaders and coaches. In collaboration with organizations across Virginia including Team Up Richmond, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and Project Community, More Than Cheer provides free or significantly reduced cheerleading lessons to girls from low-income families while stressing team building and self-esteem.
About Brittany Rose: Brittany is currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, and looking to attend Avila University for Business Administration.
By Julie Kaviar, Global Student Entrepreneur Awards http://gsea.org