Entrepreneur contest inspires student business ventures

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    By Emily Hellewell

    Jonathan Freedman started his own business when he was a student at Brigham Young University.

    Now he is the owner of DownEast Outfitters.

    During Fall Semester 1997, Freedman heard about the Student Entrepreneur of the Year contest sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship in the Marriott School.

    Freedman, who graduated in Russian in 1998, said he entered the contest and did not expect to win.

    He won first place.

    Freedman said he entered the contest just before DownEast Outfitters became popular.

    “Winning the contest motivated me. It was a thrill,” he said.

    Freedman said the prize made him proud of his business and gave him courage to continue to improve his business.

    This contest is a tremendous opportunity for all students, win or lose, he said.

    Freedman said he would encourage any student to find out what they want to do and pursue that interest.

    Some students think they will be stuck in a job for the rest of their lives, he said. They just don’t know their options.

    Hal Heaton, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said the entrepreneur contest can help students in future business ventures.

    The contest makes students more attractive to future employees and gives student businesses publicity, he said.

    Students who are balancing school and a business may not have the best grades, Heaton said. This contest shows employers there are more areas to judge students’ ability on than just grades.

    “Starting a business requires innovation, drive, and ambition,” he said.

    Local business owners who are interested in teaching entrepreneurial skills at a university level sponsor this contest, Heaton said.

    The economy in the United States is good right now because there is an interest in starting entrepreneurial businesses, he said.

    Many people want to make sure students know how to take the necessary risks to start their own business, Heaton said. Those risk-takers help everyone.

    Ron Spotts, internship coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurship, said the contest helps students make connections with people in the business world.

    Students can network with other entrepreneurs and receive informative support for their businesses, Spotts said.

    The top five students with the best business plan receive cash awards, he said.

    The biggest concern for students who start their own business is capital, Spotts said. The contest helps students to continue with their business.

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