2018-2019 Year in Review

We had a great 2018-2019 school year here at Belmont University! Here are some highlights from the Center for Entrepreneurship.

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As a part of the annual Entrepreneurship Festival, LaunchTN hosted the 36|86 Student Pitch Competition at the Entrepreneur Center on August 28th. Two of our students, Jordon Washington (College in Color) and Jamie Isabel (Studious), were selected to compete for thousands of dollars in cash prizes! They were able to network with fellow Nashville entrepreneurs, as well as make connections in their respective industries through the resources that the Entrepreneur Center provides. 

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On September 5th, we started off the school year with an Entrepreneurship Kickoff Convo where students were introduced to our newest Entrepreneur in Residence, Dan Hogan. Dan shared about the resources that our Center for Entrepreneurship provides and also told us more about his story as an entrepreneur. 

Later in September, we held our Parent’s Weekend Entrepreneurship Village where 12 student and Nashville-based entrepreneurs pitched their ideas, sold products, and gathered customer feedback. We always love this opportunity to showcase our entrepreneurial community to students’ families!

We finished off September with a convocation from James Archer, the President and CEO of KJ Energy. He shared his story of how he built a values-based company that brought him from the oil-fields of Texas to music city. 

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October was an exciting and busy month, and it began with our Moench Entrepreneurship Lecture. Payal Kadakja spoke to us about how she built her booming fitness subscription company, ClassPass. The event was packed, and Payal was nice enough to meet and answer questions from multiple students at the end of the lecture!

We had two social entrepreneurship-based convocations in October. The first was a social enterprise workshop with Joel Griffith, who shared his experience with and tips for starting a non-profit or social enterprise. Next, Dr. Shawn Duncan spoke on learning a sustainable approach to social entrepreneurship in a discussion he titled “Charity Detox.” 

Each semester we offer a free legal clinic to students, and our fall clinic was on October 23rd. Two attorneys from Baker Donnelson came to campus and met with students in 30-minute time intervals to provide business advice.

We ended off the month with a convo on How to Pitch Your Business, led by the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Elizabeth Gortmaker. It may have been Halloween, but Elizabeth assured us that pitching your business isn’t scary! She provided some great tips, tricks, and guidelines for the students competing in our upcoming Pitch Competition.

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November started off with—you guessed it—our annual Pitch Competition! 10 student entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas in a Shark Tank-style competition and competed for over $800 in cash prizes. The winners were Sean Presley (Notably), Emily Henegar (Cookie in the Kitchen) , and Walker Renfrow (The Walker). 

That evening, we also had a free screening of Knife Skills, a dynamic, Oscar-nominated film that explores the theme of second chances through a social entrepreneurial lens. 

November is also the month of Nashville’s annual Good Makers Market, a marketplace dedicated to local social entrepreneurs. One of our students, Emily Waddell, had a booth and sold her store’s merchandise here. 

On November 30th, Sarah Beth Perry, another Entrepreneurship student at Belmont, finished out the semester on a high note by winning first place at the GSEA Pitch Competition in Nashville. From here, she moved on to compete nationally in Denver!

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Students spent the first few days of December studying for finals before heading home for Christmas break!

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After returning from Christmas break, students were welcomed back to campus with another convo from a local Nashville entrepreneur! Harry Allen is the founder of Studio Bank, a boutique bank specializing in small businesses, and he shared his entrepreneurial story with us. 

This month we also offered a convocation called “Making It as a Freelancer, Performer, or Entrepreneur,” where a panel of Nashville-based creatives shared about the realities of pursuing your passions and being your own boss post-graduation. They were authentic and personable, and they each provided invaluable advice to help students both personally and professionally.

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February was a busy month filled with exciting convocations and events! On the 1st, Drew Hanlen, Belmont alum and founder of Pure Sweat Basketball, shared the story of how he turned his passions into a business as a professional basketball coach and trainer. The room was full of aspiring entrepreneurs, student athletes, and Drew’s former professors and coaches. 

Another business started by a Belmont alum, Wink Paper Co, also came to campus in February for a community service card-making event. Students designed cute Valentine’s Day cards that would be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. This event was in collaboration with House Of, one of our student-run businesses on campus!

On February 15th we offered a field trip to visit redPepper, a creative marketing firm located in downtown Nashville. 10 students got to tour the office space and hear from the founder, Tim McMullen, a Belmont alum. He shared his secrets to creating a cool company culture and the best employee experience possible.

Belmont’s Homecoming was the last week of February, so we celebrated by welcoming some of our alumni entrepreneurs back to campus! On Monday, the 20th, Elizabeth Gortmaker led a convocation on How to Present Your Business Plan, which was perfect preparation for our students competing in the upcoming Business Plan Competition. On Wednesday we had a Founder Meetup where our student and alumni entrepreneurs were able to meet each other and discuss both their current and future entrepreneurial endeavors. We finished off our Homecoming events with another convo on Friday from Jordon Washington. He spoke on the importance of mental health as both a student and entrepreneur and shared the story of his business, College in Color. 

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March also began with a social entrepreneurship event as we welcomed Nicole Minyard, a Belmont alum, back to campus to speak about her experience starting Poverty and the Arts, a local nonprofit. This event was open to our graduating seniors.

After students returned back to campus from spring break, it was time for one of our biggest events of the year- the Business Plan Competition! Eight students submitted their business plans, pitched their ideas, answered questions from our judges, and competed for over $8,000 in cash prizes. The winners were Meredith Edwards (Dressed By), James Richard and Ethan Akdamar (Vitamin Honey), and Trenton Ryder (Degree of Freedom). We also had a People’s Choice Award winner, Claire Bidigare-Curtis and Grace O’Shea (Hen House), chosen by the audience, who received $250 in gift cards. All of the students, our five judges, and the crowd turnout were amazing! 

We also continued holding our bi-weekly founder meetups as a way for our students to meet and connect with one another. Each of these meetings took place in the Hatchery, our student co-working space on campus.

We ended March with another legal clinic in partnership with Baker Donnelson. Students were able to sign up for free 30-minute consulting sessions with an attorney and receive legal advice for their business. 

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April began with our 7th annual Entrepreneurship Village! Although the weather was a little chillier than normal, we still had a great turnout, with over 20 businesses represented! Both students and alumni entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to sign up for a tent to sell products, receive customer feedback, or pitch their ideas. Nearly 500 students and visitors came through the Village, so the event was a huge success!

A few days later was the Belmont Block Party, hosted by House Of! They organized an incredible event designed to celebrate the community of businesses on Belmont Boulevard. There was live music, lots of food, local Nashville vendors, giveaways, and more. The turnout was great, and the whole event was so much fun!

April is also when we hold our annual induction of the newest Sigma Nu Tau members. Sigma Nu Tau is an entrepreneurship honor society that recognizes students for outstanding academic achievements and principled entrepreneurship. 

We ended the school year with our last event, a Founder Meetup, on April 24th, Belmont’s “Dead Day” before final exams. We gathered student entrepreneurs from across campus to celebrate their accomplishments of the past year with free specialty coffee and snacks. It was a great way to end the semester!

This was such an amazing year for the Center for Entrepreneurship! We are so proud of our students and grateful for our amazing faculty, professors, and community partners. Good luck to our graduating seniors- we can’t wait to see what wonderful things you will accomplish! To our underclassmen, we hope you have a great summer break. We can’t wait to see you back in the fall for another amazing year!

Belmont ETP