Friday, December 11, 2009

New course offers chance at cash prizes

A new online course this spring gives Washington State University business students a chance to compete for $100,000 in prizes. But first they have to endure the “Hot Seat.”
Entrepreneurship 486, Topics in New Venture Planning, assembles students in teams to prepare and present a business plan. They find an industry mentor and present sections of their plan to an entrepreneurial group in their community. Then comes the “Hot Seat Session,” where they present the entire plan to the group, and get grilled about the details.
“We are a little brutal in that session because if we aren’t, they won’t be prepared to face real questions from real investors,” said instructor Debra McCarver. “This is usually the point at which the plans go from being academic exercises to real business plans.”
If students survive the hot seat with their bottom line intact, an even hotter seat awaits. More...They can present their plan to venture capitalists, bankers and industry experts during the annual WSU Business Plan Competition, organized by the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. While distance students don’t have to come to campus, “with that kind of money, experience, and contacts, they’d be crazy not to,” McCarver said. “But I will accept a substitute if necessary.”
In 2009, one of McCarver’s teams won first place for creating a bring-your-own-cup vending machine called Ecowell. The team was awarded $14,000 and each member was given an iPhone. Ecowell is being test-marketed in a Pullman school. “I guess it’s been quite a hit,” McCarver said. Other business plans have included a Pullman laundry service, and a West Side gondola company.
Rebecca Van de Vord, a Distance Degree Programs instructional designer, said the challenge of finding off-campus business groups means that students will be making business connections in their own communities. Distance students will also benefit from the College of Business’s decision to contact DDP early about creating the course: “With that great head start,” she said, “we were able to videotape guest speakers in the on-campus course and post them for online students.”
McCarver praised Van de Vord for re-creating the entrepreneurship course online. “She has put up with lots of changes and there are more to come,” McCarver said. “She’s pretty awesome.”
Before becoming an online instructor, McCarver taught at WSU’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, where she worked with engineers, scientist and business students to prototype products and create business plans. She is also the faculty advisor for the WSU chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, an international nonprofit organization that develops community outreach projects.
McCarver has a bachelor’s in business administration from Walla Walla University, and an MBA from Northwest Nazarene University. She is married to Dave McCarver, an engineer for Schweitzer Engineering Labs. They have a 1-year-old daughter, Reagan, and live in Nampa, Idaho.
By Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

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