Monday, October 19, 2009

Part 1 of 3 : The Ohio State University Business Builders Club: An in depth discussion

The Business Builders Club at Ohio State University and Young Entrepreneurship in Columbus, Ohio

An interview with President Luke Barbara regarding the Business Builders Club and the Entrepreneur community in Columbus.

By Mark Subel
TechLife Columbus
Twitter: @marksubel

TechLife sat down with Luke Barbara, president of the student entrepreneurship organization at Ohio State University, the Business Builders Club (BBC), to learn more about the club and how it helps aspiring student entrepreneurs build successful businesses. Luke explains how the BBC is much more than just a student organization at OSU, but more of an “entrepreneurial tribe” that connects students with the resources, funding and mentors to help them turn their ideas into reality. In fact, many BBC’ers have successfully built multi-million dollar companies with the help of the BBC and their “tribe” of entrepreneurs who support each other throughout their lives.

The BBC provides a number of ways to assist and inspire members with; weekly meetings, IdeaPitch competitions, a mentor/incubator program, and resources necessary to aid budding entrepreneurs start their business. In addition to talking about the club, Luke enlightens us on the local businesses, individuals, and organizations in Columbus who are supportive of the BBC and how they have helped the BBC in their efforts. Luke even shares his thoughts on how the Columbus business community can help foster more entrepreneurship, and his vision for starting an entrepreneurial culture here in Columbus much earlier in our school curriculum. Think IdeaPitch competitions for 1st graders. We’ll let Luke explain…

Mark Subel - TechLife (TL): What are your main objectives with the Business Builders Club? What do you want students to take away from the weekly meetings?

Luke Barbara (LB): The Business Builders Club is the student entrepreneurship organization at Ohio State. We connect current and aspiring student entrepreneurs with the knowledge, resources, and mentors to build successful businesses through weekly meetings, our incubator program, and IdeaPitch competitions. Last year we invested over $5000 to help student entrepreneurs get their businesses started!

The Tuesday weekly meetings feature an entrepreneurial speaker and serve as a venue to allow students to connect with successful entrepreneurs, other entrepreneurial-minded students, and community members. We view ourselves as much more than a student organization - more of an "entrepreneurial tribe" that will assist each other and collaborate throughout our lives.

TL: How do you help students who are interested in starting a business? What resources, tools, or support do you provide them? For example, let's say a student has an idea for a product/service, how does BBC help them turn their idea into a reality?

LB: We connect them with resources, funding, and mentors. The members of the BBC help fellow students develop their ideas, leverage their networks to help get the aspiring entrepreneur get in touch with the right people, and connect them with the appropriate resources.

TL: Tell me a bit about the mentor/incubator program. How does that work?

LB: The mentor/incubator program is just being launched. We've studied similar programs such as MIT Venture Mentors program, TechStarts, Y Combinator. Logan Frederick is the champion of this project. I’ll let him explain more..

Logan Frederick: The BBC Startup Shop is our new program to support students with business ideas by connecting them with the resources they need to build their ideas from concept to a successful, sustainable business.

Startup Shop bridges three groups into one cooperative unit:

1. Students - Startup Shop is attracting OSU's smartest and most entrepreneurial-minded undergraduates.
2. Successful Local Entrepreneurs - We provide students with a "Board of Advisors" composed of six Columbus entrepreneurs willing to donate their time to help foster innovation in Columbus.
3. Financial and Legal Assistance - Students looking to incorporate a business for the first time or raise funding to grow their project receive the full support of the BBC and its network of Columbus investment funds, law firms, and business incubator programs.

There's no hidden catch and nobody but potential investors takes any ownership of these student companies. This simple pitch has already attracted a wide range of applicants from multiple industries: technology, consumer products and business-to-business services. The participating teams will be revealed at the end of October.

TL: What is the IdeaPitch competition and how does that work?

LB: The IdeaPitch competition was formed in response to a lack of channels for undergraduate student entrepreneurs at Ohio State to compete and get money for their business. Ohio State has an annual business plan competition, but an undergraduate student has never won - let alone ever finish in the top 3.

That led us to create the model of an IdeaPitch competition (under the leadership of previous President, Rob Nicholson) - a sort of early-stage business plan competition that allows students to conceptualize a business idea, articulate it in the form of an Executive Summary, and then pitch that idea to successful entrepreneurs and investors in the form of an Elevator Pitch and a Venture Capital style pitch. Last year we invested over $5000 to help students get their businesses started. This was made possible by community partnerships with Tech Columbus, freshLABS (now SandBox), Sterling Commerce, and Fast Switch.
Check out tomorrow's interview where we explore companies that have been launched by the BBC and how the local community supports the BBC's efforts


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