Three teams from Harding competed in the Arkansas Governor’s Cup competition final on Friday, March 30. The annual competition involves individuals and groups who compete using their created business plans, products and services. The top six teams proceed to the final round, and the top three winners receive monetary prizes up to $25,000. This year, Harding’s winners included Team Monity, who received third place in the undergraduate division, and Team TiFix, the undergraduate team winner of the innovation division.
Students begin planning their projects long before the competition begins. Junior Brandon Gomez, a member of a finalist team, participated in the competition for the second time this year. Gomez said the competition can become “life-consuming,” and that it takes an extreme amount of preparation. Gomez took classes over the summer to prepare for the competition and began developing a business plan with his team in August 2017.
“What I really appreciated this year was the team of engineers that we worked with,” Gomez said. “The attitude and the mindset that they brought to this competition really encouraged me to want to try to push harder. Initially, I was just going to be kind of an advisor role, but I was quickly enthralled with the work that we were doing.”
Gomez added that the teams that usually do the best are made of students with many different majors. Junior Clara Hartman, also a member of a team that made it to the final round, agreed. Hartman said the competition includes a variety of students, not just business majors.
“Honestly, you could have a Communication Sciences and Disorders major on your team if you’re doing a CSD product,” Hartman said.
Hartman plans to start her own business after graduation and said she hopes to use the business model her team developed for the Governor’s Cup in her future career. Hartman acted as the CEO of the business her team developed for the competition. She said the experience taught her how to be a leader and an entrepreneur.
“It’s an amazing growing experience,” Hartman said.
In addition to the student winners, Director of the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business and associate professor Dr. Kenneth Olree won the C. Sam Walls Entrepreneur Educator Award. According to the Governor’s Cup website, Olree received the award because of his contributions in furthering entrepreneur education on Harding’s campus.
Olree credited Harding’s success at the competition to the work ethic and enthusiasm of the students and faculty involved.
“Not only do we have good student interdisciplinary work, but our faculty from these different areas are supportive of their students coming together to make a viable business plan and contribute to the teams’ successes,” Olree said
Olree said the competition can largely benefit students who plan to start their own business, as it offers real experience that students can apply in their futures careers. While he appreciates the monetary prizes awarded, he said his overall goal is to see students succeed.
“I want to see students start real businesses,” Olree said. “I’d love to see students graduate and not worry about ‘who am I going to work for?’ I’d rather them worry about ‘who am I going to hire?’”