DUNMORE, Pa. — Penn State Scranton hosted its eighth annual “Big Idea Competition” this spring. The event gives students the opportunity to present their own five-minute business pitch, which is then judged and voted on by Penn State Scranton faculty and students.
Frank Sorokach, assistant teaching professor of business and economics at at Penn State Scranton, has helped organize the competition for the past five years, and said, "The ability for anyone to start a business has never been better. With powerful computing, resources through Penn State, and the availability of inexpensive support from graphic artists and bookkeepers, everyone inexpensively has access to everything they need to successfully run a business."
The Big Idea Competition began in 2018, and was also held virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I love this event because it’s fun and serious at the same time,” Sorokach said.
Penn State Scranton students that compete within the competition get rewarded with a gift card for entering. “Students get to practice their presentation skills under a bit of duress,” said Sorokach, as they have to convey their message in five minutes or less, in which the audience gets to be the arbiter of success. So every aspect of the event is unpredictable. But most of all, it’s fun and educational. What’s great is that the students are also very involved in putting the event together.”
Sorokach emphasized the tremendous help he received this year from student interns John Giguere and Mary McDermott, who are interning at the Scranton LaunchBox. Giguere is the president of the Anime Club and leveraged his position in that club to garner the resources necessary for the event.
“I enjoy almost everything about the Big Idea Competition. Setting up the event and making sure everything goes off without a problem is hard,” said Giguere, "but the end result is terrific.”
Giguere has attended almost all of the previous Big Idea Competitions in the past and said that he enjoys seeing all of the interesting ideas that students develop, as well as seeing what future entrepreneurs can bring to the table. “When students put their minds to something, it’s impressive to see the ideas that they come up with,” he said.
“I am hoping in the future, the two clubs can work together and make the event even better and bigger so more students can come in and enjoy the event. I know that the Anime Club and the Business Club will continue working together," said Giguere.
He also hopes the Anime Club can work with all the other clubs on campus to do some collaboration in future events.
Penn State is dedicated to entrepreneurship, and has dedicated two weeks throughout the calendar year to business and entrepreneurship. In the fall Penn State celebrates Global Entrepreneurship and in the spring, Startup Week.
The Big Idea Competition is a way to celebrate entrepreneurship and to show students that any idea can become a viable business.
“Sometimes the best ideas don’t win, but instead the best presentation wins,” said Sorokach. “This is exactly how business works in the marketplace,” he added, explaining that entrepreneurship is as much about a compelling message as it is about a compelling concept.
“Everyone has ideas about starting a business,” Sorokach noted, and espoused the competition as a good way to test the idea. “Even if no one likes it, you will still learn something; being successful in business is as much about learning from failure as it is success.”
Sorokach encourages students to have confidence in their ideas, regardless of what their major is.
“Nursing students have business ideas. English students have business ideas. Psychology students have business ideas. Just do it,” he said.
“We typically have an influential person from the business community sit in on the competition,” said Sorokach and noted that if one of these ideas has merit then the student can take the idea to the regional Business Plan Competition to compete for $10,000. Penn State Scranton has had students do that in the past.
“We want more students to complete,” remarked Sorokach. “We want Penn State Scranton to be a center for entrepreneurship in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
This year’s Big Idea Competition winners and their ideas are:
- 1st Place: Luke Gardiner and Troy Srebro — MoodForYou
- 2nd Place: Marcus Gillespie — Shufls Card Game
- 3rd Place: Joe Dougherty — Slurper Soup Cooler