Entrepreneurship Education Contests


At this writing, there are two entrepreneurship contests going on. Use them to focus your entrepreneurship lesson plans, or recreate them just for your class or school.

Interview an entrepreneur

The first is the Hot Shot Entrepreneurs Video Contest for students.This contest clebrates Entrepreneurship week (February 18-25 in 2012), and entries are due on February 13th. Click the link for the full rules of the contest.

This is essentially an oral history project. Students must identify an entrepreneur, interview him or her about business accomplishments and obstacles overcome, and produce a video to upload to YouTube.

Here’s how we see this project:

  • Research local entrepreneurs through newspapers, online search, or visits to business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or business incubators.
  • Choose an entrepreneur and conduct further research on this individual.
  • Write a letter or email requesting the interview.
  • Prepare for the interview by developing questions.
  • Conduct the interview.
  • Get required permissions and upload the files, if taking part in the contest.
  • Edit the video.
  • Upload the video to YouTube.
  • Send the submission forms electronically, if entering the contest.

That’s a lot of technology practice! Plenty of research, writing, and art as well. Students can work in small groups, gaining skills in collaboration as well.

If you’re not entering the contest, plan a day for students to share their videos with the class or the school.


Inventive entrepreneurs

There is also, at this writing, a contest to find the best new consumer products being run by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. The “Get On the Shelf” contest, accepting entries till February 22, lets people vote for their favorite product, much as people vote for their favorite singer on American Idol. Just as the winner on that TV show gets a recording contract, the winner of “Get on the Shelf” will get a contract to sell their product.

Current entries include dog shoes and zombie repellant spray, so we see no reason that your class shouldn’t enter, or at least play along at home. Click the link above to see examples of video entries people have already created.

The plan here is to come up with an idea for a new product (an item people would buy) and to make a video showing how it works.

FreshPlans talked with the experts at 8th & Walton, a company that provides training for entrepreneurs who want to see their products on the shelves, and for suppliers. They told us that this contest was ” tremendous opportunity.” It can take years to get to see a Walmart buyer in the usual way, and inventors typically have just one chance to impress the buyer. They also told us that a new product invention needs to be really new, but also something that people want. It needs to be safe. It has to be possible to make the new product for a price people are willing to pay.

Have students begin by coming up with an idea for a product. One of the best ways to start inventing is to think of a problem that could be solved by a new invention. Brainstorm with the class to identify pet peeves that could be solved by something bought at a store. Examples of problems solved by inventions:

  • Ordinary light bulbs use too much electricity.
  • People get cold when they have to take their arms out of the blankets to use the remote control.
  • Women have nowhere to put their purses when they’re eating at a restaurant.
  • The Earl of Sandwich didn’t like to stop playing cards long enough to eat dinner.
  • People get lost while driving, and can’t read a map while they drive.

Check out a collection of problems needing solutions if you need help thinking of ideas.

Once students have come up with an idea, they should do some market research. Draw  a model, using SketchUp (you could then have a 3d print made) or classroom art supplies, and show it to lots of people, asking their opinions. Help students practice listening and taking notes instead of defending or explaining their products — paying attention to feedback is a useful skill! Students should also ask what people would be willing to pay for their inventions.

Have students incorporate the feedback into the invention and perfect their inventions. If possible, have students create a working prototype of the invention. If this is not practical, encourage students to be as realistic as possible in planning their inventions. They should, for example, think about what materials could be used to make the invention and how they could keep prices in line with what people would be willing to pay.

Now to make the video. SketchUp allows you to create 3d models and fly around them, as in this video from the “Get On the Shelf” site:

Students can also create live videos. If you’re not planning to enter the contest, students might enjoy making an infomercial type video, beginning with the problem they plan to solve and then showing the happy users of their imaginary product.

Art, technology, writing, critical thinking, and research skills are all required for this project.

Either of these contests — whether students actually enter or you just produce videos simulating the entries — will make a great introduction to entrepreneurship.


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