College Hill challenges students’ entrepenuerial spirit

The Next Big Idea Entrepreneurship Competition allows college students in middle Georgia to compete for monetary prizes up to $10,000. Semifinals and finalist competitions will commence on March 10 and April 5, respectively.

The entrepreneurship competition hosted by College Hill Alliance and sponsored by the Knight Foundation aims to motivate college students to stay in Macon upon graduation and to contribute to the local economy.

“Macon has a brain drain. We have all of these college students coming out of Mercer, and too often they go on to other things,” said Lake Lambert, dean of Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts. “This is an effort to encourage entrepreneurship by our students [that] will hopefully lead to small businesses that will thrive in Macon,” he said, “and to encourage our students to stay in Macon after they graduate.”

The competition rules state that a total of 12 teams will be selected from six colleges and universities, including Central Georgia Technical College, Fort Valley State University, Georgia College, Mercer University, Middle Georgia State College and Wesleyan College.

It’s a “business plan competition to encourage the entrepreneurship spirit around central Georgia,” said Joseph Wozniak, intern for College Hill Alliance and sophomore at Mercer. “Small business owners have a really hard time on figuring out how to start. [The Next Big Idea]’s purpose is to raise awareness that it is not that hard.”

Teams are encouraged to use staff, faculty, alumni and other school and community resources to provide feedback. Each school will hold an internal competition selecting one or two semi-finalist teams to compete in the final round.

Each college has a designated faculty member devoted to guiding the teams through the competition. Dr. Linda L. Brennan, associate dean and professor of management at the Stetson School of Business, serves as Mercer’s faculty aid to The Next Big Idea Mercer competitors.

So far, five teams from Mercer have submitted their entries for the semifinals, with a sixth on the way.

The opportunity to compete is open to all students.

“Entrepreneurship is not just limited to business students,” Lambert said. “It is something that all Mercer students should consider.”

“We are called the Harvard of the South and are the hub of academia in Macon,” Wozniak said. “Mercer students are known for their creativity and problem solving because of the liberal arts.”

The first place prize is $10,000 with 30 percent being distributed on the final competition day and the remainder held by College Hill until the team presents evidence that the idea will be implemented in Central Georgia. The second place prize is $3,000, and third place prize is $2,000.

Materials for semifinals are due March 10. From there, each college will determine their winner to be nominated to the finals and release these nominations on March 21. The final competition will be held April 5 at Mercer.

College Hill Alliance is now accepting applications for semifinals. If you have an idea that you think could be The Next Big Idea, go to www.thenextbigidea.us to submit it.