Know your market: IBE hosts second annual Big Idea Conference

Written by Jacque Flanagan

Editor’s Note: This version of the story corrects the spelling of Helzberg.
Managing Editor
“If you’re a student interested in any aspect of business or just entrepreneurship or you want to work for somebody else – what the speaker series does is bring back very successful alumni in the business community and have them come back and share their experience,” said Barry Whitmore, Big Idea Conference sponsor.
Integrated Business Experience, a course in the entrepreneurship program, hosted the second Big Idea conference Aug. 30 in the Elliott Student Union. The first program launched last August. The conference pairs community members with student entrepreneurs.
The event is tied specifically to a 15-week IBE program. Students donate their time to a nonprofit while selling a product; all of their proceeds, once their bank loan is paid off, goes to that nonprofit.
Dan Jensen, coordinator for the Social Enterprise program, and Mary Mccord created the Big Idea program as a set of extracurricular activities that supports entrepreneurial activity on campus and expands the program reach to non-majors, encouraging them to get involved.
“We reach out through the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, Johnson County Development Council, and then specifically to alumni and through the Helzberg Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program based in Kansas City,” Jensen said. “I have a personal network of professionals that I’ve worked with in higher education. A lot of these people are my friends, which is awesome, including my neighbor – who’s also an alumni.”
The series is funded through the Alumni Foundation; In-Touch Solutions, a UCM alumni IT company based in Overland park, which sponsors cash prizes; the Harmon College of Business dean’s office, which helps pay for food; and the Blaine Whitmore Go Big or Go Home Memorial scholarship.
“The series comes from the Blaine Whitworth Memorial fund,” Jensen said. “Diane and Barry Whitmore are very active, they’ve set up scholarships… they donate so much time, it’s awesome.”
Barry said the reason he and his wife sponsored the series was to honor their son.
“We also do scholarships and each year we do a 5K that raises money for multiple scholarships we hand out,” Whitmore said. “One of our tenets of the foundation is entrepreneurship because that’s what our son was and how we got connected with the entrepreneur area. We’re able to give back because of Blaine’s association as a UCM graduate and entrepreneur in downtown Warrensburg.”
The program has other outlets, including the student organization College Entrepreneur Organization that launched last year and meets in the Start Up Center located on the south end of Missouri Street near the James Kirkpatrick Library. There are also business pitch competitions in April with a first-place prize of $3,000, $1,500 for second and $500 for third.
And the Mule Pen, an entrepreneurial fair that takes place in the Ward Edwards atrium. Students pitch their ideas and attendees have tokens to vote for their favorite idea – a combination of judge’s scores and popular vote award the winner.
“The conference is a part of our grade, so we each pick an individual item we want to sell then pitch it to each other in our teams” said Ellanie Jamison, an IBE student. “Then we chose the top one (item) we all wanted to invest in, now we pitch it to different investors and pick the top one from there.”
Jamison said although she’s a hospitality management major, the event is still relevant to her.
“It’s still a good experience to know what it’s like to start a company from the ground up and go through all the logistical steps,” she said. “I think it’s beneficial to anyone interested in having their own business at some point in time but it’s definitely challenging.”
The series is open to any business person in the community, not just entrepreneurs but also those getting started and wanting additional help. There are three sessions in the fall and three in the spring. The next speaker series is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12. Contact Jensen at [email protected] for more information.