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Feb. 14, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU’s SEA offers ‘Elevator Pitch’ participants cash prizes

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Got an idea for a new board game, electronic gizmo, labor-saving device, or way to make better use of what some call “junk”? Put your idea on paper in the form of a three-minute “elevator speech” and it could pay off handsomely in Slippery Rock University’s Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator contest.

SEA, directed by Richard Grimm, associate professor of finance in SRU’s School of Business, is offering a two-part workshop on creative development of entrepreneurial business ideas. The workshops are free.

William Ringle of the Callidus Group, an expert in entrepreneurial consulting, will facilitate the workshop sessions that are designed to help prepare participants for the upcoming cash-prize SEA "Rock the Boat" Elevator Pitch Competition April 8.

The first workshop is at 7 p.m., Feb. 23; Session 2 is at 7 p.m., March 16. Both sessions are in the Eisenberg Classroom Building.

“The workshops are open to students, faculty, staff, students and the general community,” Grimm said. “We want anyone with a marketable idea to join in. We are looking for people that need help in turning their ideas into reality.”

“We know there are many good ideas out there that don’t go anywhere because the originator doesn’t have a platform to get the ball rolling,” Grimm said.

He said participants would be shown how to collaborate with marketers to review their ideas or to tweak them so that the ideas address any overlooked areas. “We will point them toward information on marketing, engineering design and venture capital to help launch and finance the business start up,” Grimm said.

“SEA was founded on the idea of encouraging entrepreneurship and all it entails,” he said. “While ‘sustainable’ is part of our name, it really has at least two meanings. One, we want the business to have long-term viability – to be sustained as a profitable enterprise. Second, we are encouraging the business owners to think about sustainability – any aspect from the re-use of materials, energy conservation, environmentally-conscious supply or design decisions, to offering wages and benefits that will attract and retain quality employees.”

“We want budding entrepreneurs to think about the kind of business they are building. Such things as ‘how they will treat employees,’ ‘what kind of benefits they eventually want to offer their workers’ and ‘where they want their business to go in terms of the environment’ will be part of their thinking,” he said.

“We want to serve as consultants in a process that assists aspiring entrepreneurs in developing successful early-stage businesses. We believe entrepreneurs who follow our process will obtain a better understanding of their business environment, discover more options for finance, attract better talent and establish a broader customer base for their product or service,” he said.

“At SEA we believe our future depends on the choice we make today. If we desire better lives for ourselves and future generations, we must utilize the power of markets and commerce to make changes,” he said. “Our vision for SEA is to become the region’s primary resource for student involvement in the development of sustainable business enterprises.”

Grimm is expecting a large turn-out for the upcoming competition. He said the top three presenters, in addition to possibly having their ideas brought to fruition, would receive substantial prizes.

“An ‘Elevator Pitch’ is a presentation that quickly summarizes a business proposal in understandable terms and is delivered to an appropriate established entrepreneur, bank president or legislator for the duration of an elevator ride. Think about being trapped in an elevator with Donald Trump and giving him your idea,” he said.

“Think of a pitch in terms of how many Hollywood movies and television shows are made. The studio executives must often be swayed with just one or two simple sentences that ‘sell the entire concept of the show,’” he said. “There is even a ‘Hollywood Pitch Festival’ for selling such ideas.”

Not all ideas need to come from scratch. “Sometimes, it is just about making small, but innovative changes to a product that has existed for decades. You have to think of a way to make a product better.”

“I am hoping all faculty members will encourage their students to consider the project,” Grimm said. “Every major on campus has opportunities for entrepreneurship. An education major who can’t find a job as a school teacher may resort to other opportunities to make use of his or her skill set. For example, the student could start a business or service that is related to education, or an entirely different area, but still make use of the skills he or she has learned as an education major.”

Similar opportunities exist for students majoring in dance or theatre. “The dance student may want to consider opening a dance studio or a dance school. The student will probably need to gather marketing skills, business skills and other expertise needed to be an entrepreneur,” he said.

“When you are just out of college, it is the best time to try your hand at being an entrepreneur,” he said. “You often don’t have a family or mortgage obligations, you are mobile and you have enthusiasm needed to help build a business,” Grimm said.

“We want to help bring ideas to fruition. We can help budding entrepreneurs find the help they will need to grow their business, in part, by helping them focus their pitch and realizing the possibilities of their business,” he said.

Grimm said some ideas might be forwarded to SRU’s Business Innovation Center as a means of bringing them to market.

For more information about the workshops or the competition, call 724.738.4374.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.