Sixty seconds, dozens of great entrepreneurial ideas

Author: Carol Elliott


Even in the down economy, there’s no shortage of ideas for new ventures, judging by the turnout at the recent Fourth Annual Ideas Challenge hosted by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Nearly 200 students representing programs and colleges from across the campus attended the Sept. 21 event held at the Mendoza College of Business.  Eighty-six students pitched  their best entrepreneurial ideas in the 60 seconds allotted, competing for a series of  prizes, including three iPads, two Platinum Keurig Coffee Brewers, and gift cards from local vendors.  The 21 winners included Engineering, Business, and Arts and Letters undergraduates, as well as Notre Dame MBAs.

Among the winning ideas were an Indiana-based whiskey distillery, a social venture whereby Notre Dame students would donate 99 cents over 99 Fridays into a fund that goes to a new charity each year, a walking path constructed of solar panels, an automatic bike lock, and an online application which would organize all of a student’s graduate school application information.

According to Gigot Center Director Laura Hollis, the Ideas Challenge is a great lead-in for the annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition.

“One of the intimidating factors that keeps students from entering a business plan competition,” she explained, “is their fear that they don’t have any ideas.  The Challenge demystifies the process of idea generation, in a fun and informal climate.  What do they have to lose?  It’s one minute!  From there, it’s a small step to come up with a two-page overview that is the initial entry for the McCloskey Business Plan Competition later in the year.”

“It’s all about messaging,” Hollis continued.  “Participation has increased every year, so clearly the word is getting out.”

The annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition is a year-long event for both for-profit and nonprofit ventures that either haven’t been launched or are in the earliest stages of launch. The 2010-2011 competition offered more than $100,000 in prizes.

Registration for the 2011-2012 McCloskey Competition is due Nov. 7th, with the final round of judging taking place April 20. For more information on the Gigot Center or the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, including an event timeline and information about previous winning ventures, visit