Each spring since 2008, the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program at Clark University has held the U’Reka! Big Idea Contest to encourage student entrepreneurship and fund creative ideas that benefit the Clark community and beyond. This year’s contest had a shortened name — and a twist: The U’Reka Contest 2019 focused on supporting existing student ventures, and invested in the projects prior to their final, judged presentations.
The students whose ventures were accepted to be part of the U’Reka Contest each received $100 in seed money to use toward growing their businesses. They also were required to choose a mentor for their U’Reka journey, and to use one campus resource to help further their success — e.g., the LEEP Center, the Office of Multicultural and First Generation Student Support, or the Small Business Development Center.
“My interest in entrepreneurial-type contests is to actually support existing businesses and ventures to do better and do more,” says Teresa Quinn, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program manager. Those who received the seed money at the start of the contest had already established their ventures.
“Some invested in social media marketing campaigns, some in web development, and others in inventory,” Quinn says. Mentors ranged from family members to successful business owners.
On April 15, sixteen students or teams presented their ventures to a panel of Clark alumni judges. The students shared how they had used the initial investment, identified the entrepreneurial skills they learned in the process, and made a pitch for further financial backing.
In the end, the judges chose to give additional funding to five ventures. The U’reka Contest 2019 winners are:
Kava Kraze also won the People’s Choice award, and Margaretes, a jewelry company founded by Margarita Perez-Maza ’22, was presented with the U’Reka Committee Choice award.
The judging panel included Rick Treitman ’73, entrepreneur-in-residence at Adobe; Amanda Barker ’11, owner of Cotyledon Vegetable Farm; Victoria Mariano ’08, owner of the Bull Mansion; and Daysha Williams ’17, owner of Asanara Holistic Care and a past U’Reka runner-up.
Students in the innovation and entrepreneurship minor at Clark, offered through the AACSB-accredited Graduate School of Management, learn to identify opportunities, develop ideas, and turn those ideas into reality, while they master forward-thinking, socially responsible business practices. The winner of the U’Reka! Big Idea contest in 2010 established the Clark Community Thrift Store, which remains a thriving student-run enterprise that supports both the University’s sustainability initiatives and the community by keeping gently-used college essentials, housewares, and clothing out of the landfill. The store has been joined in its 930 Main Street location by the Clark Collective, which offers space for student entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses to the Clark community and neighborhood. Read about the Collective’s March grand opening here.