Challenge seeks viable business ideas

Russ Hopper 01 editBy James Walls
Campus News Editor

The MARET Center Entrepreneur Challenge, sponsored by Crowder College’s MARET Center and the Neosho Chamber of Commerce, is holding a competition for new ideas in technology that can be developed into a viable business opportunity for the area.

“One of the missions of the MARET Center is economic development, and so I was working with the Chamber of Commerce trying to figure out how we could help them with economic development in the region,” said Russ Hopper, the executive director of the MARET Center. “So we came up with an idea that we would have this challenge to hopefully promote alternative energy business ideas, but also generally any other type of technology based ideas.”

Aiming to create fresh, technologically-based business opportunities in the area, the Entrepreneur Challenge is open to anyone, not just those affiliated with Crowder. However, Hopper stated three main criteria that participants must consider for their business idea.

“Is it innovative, is it technologically doable and does there seem to be a viable target market?” said Hopper, stating the main aspects he and the selection committee will be looking for on the ideas presented.

Ideas can be emailed to Russ Hopper or to the MARET Center, or, for those who would rather visit with him in person, they can simply stop by his office. The deadline to submit ideas is December 20, after which those presented will be reviewed and the most viable ones will be selected to continue on.

After the selections have been made, the participants chosen will take part in an entrepreneur boot-camp, where the focus will be on market development and product development.

“The main thing that is a factor and failure for startups is usually developing the wrong product or not targeting the right market,” said Hopper. “And so we’re going to train the people to give them the tools to both match the product development with the market that is the best for the product.”

“I’m just hoping to refine the ideas I have and find out what other people have to offer,” said Lloyd Davies, a solar energy major at Crowder. “It’s going to give me the opportunity to see how it runs, from turning an idea into an actual product or a business, or to see the process of how something is built from the ground up.”

While each of the winners will receive a $2500 award, winners will also get the chance to present their ideas to possible investors, as well as have the aid of the MARET Center’s incubator to help get their business off the ground. However, the main benefit is for people in the area.

“The benefit will be that we’ll have startups in the area that the Crowder community can participate in or observe,” said Hopper. “The best thing would be that we get a few startups going and some students who graduate with business or alternative energy or some other degree will be able to go to work for these people and stay in the area.”