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Some of the biggest, most revolutionary businesses began with a single, simple idea, the right audience and little bit of time to make a pitch.

That’s the spirit (and those are also the rules) behind the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business’s “Student Entrepreneurship Day Elevator Pitch Contest” on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Students who qualified for the opportunity to sell their best business idea will try to convince a panel of successful New North and Wisconsin business leaders – including Culver’s titan and UW Oshkosh alumnus Craig Culver – that their concept is worth a $1,000 grand prize.

The event runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Sage Hall 1210 on Nov. 28 and is open to the campus and community.

“This Wednesday’s event is a great opportunity to create awareness and excitement for entrepreneurship, not only on the UW Oshkosh campus but also in the Oshkosh community as a whole,” said Jordan Rhodes, a UW Oshkosh business student and member of the UW Oshkosh College Entrepreneurship Organization who has helped coordinate the elevator pitch contest.

In the event’s inaugural year of 2011, students competed for a $250 prize. The stakes have risen considerably. Not only is a $1,000 prize on the line but so is the opportunity for the winning student to test his or her winning concept in a UW Oshkosh business accelerator program.

UW Oshkosh students joined city of Oshkosh Mayor Burk Tower earlier this month to proclaim Nov. 25 through Dec. 1 “Student Entrepreneurship Week.” Rhodes said the endorsement of city hall and Culver’s and others’ involvement, represent the spectrum of support that makes campus and the community a launch pad for entrepreneurs.

Having the Mayor proclaim this event proves that the city is behind our efforts here and having one of UWO’s most notable alumni, Craig Culver, share his entrepreneurial success story will give students the ‘I can do this too’ feeling that we are really trying to push,” Rhodes said.

“A lot of students feel like entrepreneurship is some fairy tale, pie-in-the-sky career choice, but it’s really not. It is very possible and can be very rewarding for those who choose to take this path.”

UW Oshkosh College of Business faculty member John Muraski, who has recently taught entrepreneurship, said his goal is to help students run with the contest and then “stay out of the way.” He said helping student entrepreneurs develop a knack for the art of the pitch is essential to their success.

“Truly, as an entrepreneur you are always asked to present your idea,” Muraski said. “You can’t hem and haw.”

That’s exactly what Wednesday’s judge panel will be assessing. In addition to Culver, the pitch contest judges include:

  • Rollie Stephenson, founder and CEO of electrical contracting firm Faith Technologies.
  • Dave Gerszack, a UW Oshkosh graduate who started a multi-million-dollar retail watch company and a successful Fantasy Football Contest league.
  • Roger Orlady, the “elevator pitch guru” and successful consultant for entrepreneurs.

Rhodes said one of the many goals of the pitch contest is to encourage students – and not just business students – to step up and act on the creativity and drive that propels so many entrepreneurs to share their ideas and plant the seeds that form so many successful endeavors and enterprises.

“Our student organization, the UW Oshkosh College Entrepreneurship Organization, is extremely passionate about ‘infecting’ students with the same ‘entrepreneurial bug’ that we all have ourselves,” he said.

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