AAS, CCE Promote Entrepreneurship
By Meghna Sridhar '14, News Section Editor
During the month of April, the College will be hosting two entrepreneurship opportunities for students: the Amherst Innovation Pitch, organized by the Association of Amherst Students (AAS), and the Gumball Challenge, organized by the Center of Community Engagement (CCE).

Both competitions are designed to stimulate innovative and creative thinking, as well as to get an idea of whether long-term, higher-stake incubator programs for mentoring and supporting student entrepreneurs can be implemented on campus.

The Gumball Challenge is a nation-wide competition started by the non-profit organization Gumball Capital. The Gumball Challenge was held on campus last year, but this year, it is planned to be a bigger event. Participants, who can enter the challenge either individually or in groups, are invited to come up with unique fundraising ideas to raise money for various microfinance charities, using a start up investment of only $27.

“Students get together and decide creative ways to raise money,” said Crystal Yan ’14, a member of the Social Innovation team, the unit of the CCE responsible for organizing the Amherst chapter of the challenge. “The idea behind $27 is to show students that it doesn’t take a lot to start something meaningful to help the community around them.”

Iris Aliaj ’12, Dana Kaufman ’12 and Kat Libby ’11 already have an idea for the challenge.

“We will be offering thank you cards and crayons and other materials for people to write thank you notes to friends on campus or family and friends at home,” said Aliaj. “For a small fee we will deliver these cards and letters to their destination.”

While the Gumball Challenge focuses on projects directed towards social change, the Amherst Innovation Pitch, is open to a wider spectrum of ideas, encouraging students to come up with a two-minute sales pitch for a business idea, social innovation project or even a work-in-progress piece of art. In this competition, students compete for prizes of a total value of up to $1,300.

“A lot of people came up to the AAS and asked about business competitions that will give our students a competitive advantage later in the business world,” said senator Jacob Ong ’14, who is spearheading the project in the AAS. “So we decided to create an event where people who have ideas ... can come forward and share them.”

This event will be the first of its kind in Amherst history, equipping Amherst students with the platform and support required to implement their creative ideas on a large scale.

“In just two hours, you can come up with something that will enable you to win up to $500 in cash money,” said Ong. “Why would you not jump up at the opportunity?”

While both of these events are driven by student teams working tirelessly to implement them, they also credit the CCE and various alumni who have offered their time and mentorship to help these projects grow. According to both groups, Stephen Garrow ’84, CEO of Rushmore House, is a key figure in advising and helping the Social Innovation Team and the Senate in implementing these enterprise competitions on campus.

“I never had these sorts of opportunities when I was at Amherst, and, not coming from a business family, it took me a long time to realize I wanted to be a business leader and innovator,” said Garrow. “I want Amherst students to have a space to realize their potential to create world-changing ideas and enable them to implement these ideas.”

Garrow will also be hosting a conference on April 14 as a part of the Innovation Pitch, where alumnus John E. Abele ’59, co-founder and director of the Boston Scientific Competition, will speak about innovation and entrepreneurship.

What Garrow, the CCE and the Senate hope is that these competitions achieve a two-pronged objective: giving students with ideas the opportunity to actualize them and giving students who never knew they wanted to get involved in entrepreneurship the opportunity to realize their potential as innovators.

“Ultimately, we want the CCE to become a place where any student can go to with a great idea and ask for help in its implementation, as well as support and mentorship,” said Garrow.

Issue 19, Submitted 2011-03-23 04:01:30