By Lauren Bluth
Three rising entrepreneurs from BYU won $50,000 each and the opportunity to start a business through Junto Partners, a program designed to help young entrepreneurs succeed.
Brock Blake, a business major; Justin Bergener, a sociology major; and Tamio Stehrenberger, a recent graduate of BYU from the business program were selected as winners April 27. Other winners were Ryan Coombs, a UVSC student and Joe Grover a University of Utah student.
The five candidates were selected based on their potential to become successful entrepreneurs, not based on having a great business idea alone. Although the winners had entrepreneurial experience, they will use the money to start up a new business. Participants said this aspect of the program made Junto different than other business plan competitions.
?The thing that?s unique about this program is that it uses the analogy of betting on the jockey rather than the horse,? Bergener said. ?The philosophy with this program is the team. It?s the person behind the idea that is able to implement it, to accomplish it, to get it done more so than just a great idea.?
Another unique element of the Junto program is that winners are placed on teams of five. This team acts as a board where the members will propose ideas and develop their business plans. The members will each start their own company and then have five percent equity in each other?s companies. The team atmosphere helps each member develop the best idea possible.
?The thing that?s neat about the Junto Program is it really provides a young entrepreneur with tools that they wouldn?t necessarily have such as capital, mentoring and synergy that comes from working in a partnership,? Bergener said.
Junto also provided winners with resources to learn how to build their businesses. The winners all spent seven weeks attending classes where they learned entrepreneurial skills and worked with mentors. All three winners from BYU said the opportunity to learn from the mentors was the best part of the experience.
?The mentors are probably the best part of this whole program,? said Brock Blake. ?Yeah, 50 grand?s a lot of money and it?s helped me out?but to be placed in this pipeline of these people that know who you are and want to help you become successful, that?s way valuable.?
All of this money and opportunity will come at a cost for the Junto members. They will spend the next 18 months building their business and reporting to each other.
For Tamio Stehrenberger, this work is just what he said he wanted.
?I hate to work for somebody,? Stehrenberger said. ?I hated working eight to five jobs growing up. But I don?t mind working 16-hour days for myself, for my own business.?
While taking MBA courses in entrepreneurship, Stehrenberger said he realized he did not want to follow the corporate route.
?I knew that those MBA students will be going out into the business world but they might end up in a cubby, where here we get to go out and we get to do a business,? Stehrenberger said.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, the Junto winners all said that this is a great opportunity.
?This is going to be a life-changing thing for all of us involved,? Stehrenberger said.
Greg Warnock, a local entrepreneur and partner at vSpring Capital, started Junto, named for a club created by Benjamin Franklin in 1714. Warnock wanted to help create partnerships, build companies and provide opportunities to young entrepreneurs. This is the second year for the Junto program.
To get involved with next year?s program, visit www.juntopartners.com for more information and to view the application.