This weekend, I attended the 2nd Annual Future Builders Challenge, hosted by Buildertrend, a successful Omaha startup.
As Silicon Prairie News’s resident high school student, I had the pleasure of going through the event as a participant rather than an observer, which gave me an opportunity to experience the event hands-on, observe wonderful volunteer speakers, and grown my professional network. The competition was established as a method of getting potential future builders, or entrepreneurs, of high school age into the same room.
We were selected based on our performances on the BP10 test, administered by Gallup. The event comprised a business pitch competition and a series of experienced speakers that ranged from professors at The University of Nebraska at Omaha, to representatives from the Startup Collaborative.
The pitch contest included about 20 teams of three or four strangers that were given about six hours to develop business models from scratch. My team attempted to develop a service that made it possible to get cars serviced through third-party drivers to save the customers time, while the other pitches ranged from a group that intended to end the cycle of unemployment and homelessness in the Omaha area, to a team that was planning to mine asteroids.
Each team received a mentor that was experienced in entrepreneurship and had expertise in their field. My mentor was Grant Stanley, a consultant who is also the CEO of BRIC, who knew a lot about recruiting drivers, and about how to target a specific audience. We also worked with Mitch Treu, from the Startup Collaborative, on pricing and forecasting.
After completing our pitches, we presented to two sets of three mentors, and the highest scoring five pitches advanced to the final round where we were judged by some of the most prestigious community leaders in the Omaha and Lincoln areas, including LaShonna Dorsey, Paul Jarrett, Dan Houghton, Willy Theisen, Ivan Gilreath, Andrea ‘Andee’ Hoig, and Dan Curran. Our business, PitStop, finished fifth among the presenters.
The speakers were impressive to say the least. The first speaker, Stephen Osberg, from the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, presented on Saturday afternoon and talked about the void of talent in the Omaha Area. He also spoke about public transportation and diversity. The following Monday, I saw Professor Dale Eesley, an entrepreneurship professor from the university of Nebraska at Omaha, speak about his version of R&D, which stands for “Rip Off & Duplicate.”
This essentially means to look for somebody who is doing something you’re interested in and do their job a little differently, or better. Then Mitch Treu and Cameron French, from the startup collaborative, talked about how to assemble a pitch deck. I learned a lot about building an idea and translating it into an understandable pitch.
I also did a lot of networking at the Future Builders Challenge. I met Pam Finn, a local entrepreneur who started a successful handbag company, and she gave me some advice on one of my projects, which was very useful. I also connected with my mentor, Stanley, who offered great advice related to some questions I had about pricing. Treu was able to tell me about branding. Dr. Eesley also talked to me about the entrepreneurship program at UNO. I also got to know the other contributors, Dawn Nizzi and Todd Johnson, who did a great job organizing the whole event.
The event highlighted the potential of the Omaha Ecosystem by showing off some of the most promising young builders. It also gave established professionals a good look at some potential interns and future employees. I learned a lot about what it would be like to be an entrepreneur, and it inspired me to become a more involved learner and participant when it comes to similar events and opportunities.
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