A "Shark Tank"-inspired event will help determine the winner of EntrepreNU2015, Niagara University's poverty-focused social entrepreneurship competition on March 30.
An esteemed panel of political leaders, business owners, and sustainable farming and food service executives will convene next Monday at 3 p.m. in the Leary Theatre, on the university's campus, to ascertain the merits of each student-team's proposal. The winning team will receive access to up to $10,000 in start-up funds, plus the opportunity to raise additional funds and resources to implement its plan.
Each of the three finalists will be allotted 10 minutes to explain a business pitch. A brief Q&A session with the panelists follows. The teams will be scored on a five-category rubric, with the winners being announced no later than 4:30 p.m.
According to a recent community report commissioned by The John R. Oishei Foundation, approximately 15 percent of Niagara Falls' most vulnerable residents have urgent concerns around food. Parts of Niagara Falls have been designated as a "food desert," or an area where people do not have adequate access to groceries.
Students participating in the competition have attended discussions on poverty and access to healthy foods, as well as a series of workshops on innovative thinking. Participants also met with community members to learn more about the realities and challenges they confront to put healthy food on the table.
Throughout the process, students received assistance on how to develop a basic business plan and put together a convincing business pitch. As part of the final submission, teams prepared a brief video, a three-to-five-page concept paper and a modified business plan canvas.
Despite this being the first year of the competition, more than 100 students, representing all four of Niagara's colleges, registered to form more than 30 different teams in October. Three finalist teams were chosen in December, all of which received a cash prize of $500 and the opportunity make a final pitch to the community for start-up funding
The competition aims to find new, self-sustaining, innovative solutions to the poverty-related issues of food, hunger and nutrition that confront so many Niagara Falls residents. It is rooted in Niagara University's Catholic and Vincentian mission.
For more information on the competition, visit www.niagara.edu/entreprenu.
To learn more about Niagara University, visit www.niagara.edu.
Edited by Jacob Pandolfi