Outdoor Weber, a competition organized by Weber State University’s Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, has received over 100,000 site visits and over 80 submissions from all over the United States.
Brandon Stoddard, director of WSU’s Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, expects that the competition will grow to 200,000 visits and 100,000 total votes before voting ends Feb. 15.
The competition’s purpose is to give would-be entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch a business idea, centered in outdoor recreation, to a national audience. The first place winner can expect a $30,000 prize.
“We couldn’t have offered that large of a prize without Camping World as our sponsor,” Stoddard said.
Popular vote will determine the top 25 competitors, who will meet at WSU March 22-24 to develop their business ideas competitively. Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” will be the keynote speaker during the awards banquet.
“I think there are a lot of students out there with outdoor recreation ideas, and as far as I know, this is the first time a competition like this has been offered nationwide,” Stoddard said.
He mentioned he’s pleased with the nationwide response, especially because the entrepreneurship center had limited time to set the competition in motion. He also said the plan is to hold the competition annually moving forward.
The competition has gained international attention, with a submission from a contestant in Canada.
Dave Mays, an ambassador for the entrepreneurship center, said they used a myriad of marketing tools and strategies to bring the competition to national attention.
“We spent a lot of money targeting schools we thought would be interested in entrepreneurship,” Mays said. He said ambassadors and volunteers in the entrepreneurship center called those schools directly, which proved to be the most effective method of contact and marketing as opposed to emails and social media posts.
Mays said the center targeted schools with significant outdoor recreation and entrepreneurship programs, as well as engineering schools.
Ambassadors and volunteers made nearly 900 phone calls during this marketing phase.
Pamela Godwin, president of the entrepreneurship center, said that the idea for Outdoor Weber grew out of a previous competition called Startup Weber, in which students would form teams to build an outdoor recreation business idea in just one day.
“When we saw the opportunity to expand it, we jumped on it,” Godwin said. “Many faculty, staff, students and community members have stepped in to make this happen. It’s been incredible to observe the competition take form and evolve into something we’re all really proud of.”
One thing that has impressed Godwin from submitters is the overall sense of excitement.
“A student this morning told me, ‘I didn’t expect this to be so much fun,’” Stoddard said. With participants from Florida, Michigan, New York and the central United States, the excitement is nearly unanimous.
The outdoor recreation theme of the competition came from a blend of Utah’s entrepreneurship hotbed status and Weber County’s geographic position in the Rocky Mountains.
“All the ski resorts are on board, and they’re excited to be involved,” Stoddard said. “A lot of local companies have jumped on board to either mentor, judge or sponsor. We’ve had great feedback from everyone involved.”
Mays also said that having Camping World as such a large sponsor will not only make a difference this year, but in years to come.
“Camping World donated quite a bit of money to help us this year. If we didn’t succeed in getting a sponsor this year, we knew we wouldn’t get one next year,” Mays said.
For those looking to compete in future years, Godwin had advice.
“Create a video that would make you excited about your idea if you were hearing about it for the first time,” Godwin said. “Be creative and catch people’s attention in as little time as is possible. Then recruit everyone you know to vote for your video.”
The submission deadline for the 2018 competition was Jan. 26, but the deadline for votes is Feb. 15.