‘Young minds’ mentor future entrepreneurs

Apr 24, 2012

The Heidelberg StudentsThere were multiple winners in the recent New Business Competition, co-sponsored by the Tiffin Charitable Foundation, Tiffin Tomorrow, Heidelberg University and Tiffin University.

On April 19, the first-ever local competition came to a close with the announcement of Vanessa Cook as the winner. Vanessa is planning a new children’s play area based on the Chuck E. Cheese concept, titled Stir Crazy Family Play Park. One of the criteria of the competition – which provided $10,000 in prize money – is that the business must be located in downtown Tiffin.

The competition was one step in an ongoing effort to revitalize downtown Tiffin. Heidelberg hosted the final presentations and award announcement.
“Everyone who participated in this process is a winner,” said Jodie Reinbolt, administrator for the Tiffin Charitable Foundation. Reinbolt explained that when the competition was conceived a few years ago, organizers thought it would be a good idea to involve the two universities by “getting young minds together to help us.”

“We couldn’t have done this without the students,” she said. “They were awesome.”

Prior to the launching of the competition in January, both Heidelberg and Tiffin universities identified students who would work with the prospective entrepreneurs to help them develop their application packages and eventually, their business plans.

The result was an excellent example of putting theory into practice for a group of students who may well be headed down the same path.

Dr. Haseeb Ahmed, dean of the Heidelberg School of Business, said the competition came at the ideal time because the school had just formed its Students in Free Enterprise chapter. The next step was development of a course for credit, “Applications of Business and Economic Theory.”

Jodie Reinbolt speaks“The top priority was a course in which students could engage with the community and local businesses in an entrepreneurial project,” Ahmed said. Tiffin University’s business school developed a similar course for the same purpose.

At the start of the spring semester, applications for the competition already had been submitted. Ahmed explained that 12 were deemed viable, and those were divided among the two universities.

Small groups of students enrolled in the course, taught by Linda Stine, were assigned to each potential business owner. The students served as mentors and consultants as the 12 worked to develop their individual business plans. Both universities also hosted a series of seminars for the applicants on such topics as taxation, financial planning, human resources planning and small business administration.

“This was a good experience for our students to learn how to manage the consultant-client relationship,” Ahmed said. “They had an excellent opportunity to get the flavor of what’s involved in becoming an entrepreneur.”

“This was a win-win for everyone – the entrepreneurs, the community and the students. … We’re happy with how it turned out.”