Ellie Hogrebe, Staff Writer

What would you do with up to $30,000? The University of Missouri-St. Louis students, as well as students who attend the other schools in the University of Missouri System, have the opportunity to find out. The UMSL Accelerate program is hosting a competition this year. Students can present their entrepreneurial and business ideas for a chance to win significant cash prizes that will assist them in getting their ideas off the ground.

UMSL Accelerate is a program that seeks to foster and grow the entrepreneurial aspirations of students at the university. Those who are involved in this program look to provide people in the UMSL community who have innovative business ideas with guidance and mentorship that will help them navigate the process of transforming those ideas into reality.

For the first time, the Accelerate program is sponsoring the Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator. This is an event where students can compete for education opportunities and funding that will fuel their goals of starting a business or creating a product or service. Leaders in the Accelerate program hope to give young innovators a chance to explore their ideas in a productive and collaborative space. Students who take part in this competition can work to advance their entrepreneurial goals through a structured, guided process that makes the intimidating idea of starting your own business more accessible for students who may be juggling school, work and family obligations.

UMSL students who are interested in this opportunity can apply by filling out an application with questions that gather information about various aspects of the business, product or service idea the student has put forth. This application can be found through the UMSL Accelerate webpage, and it should be submitted by the Nov. 1 deadline. Participants can enter individually or as a team. After a session where students pitch their ideas shark tank-style, 10 semi-finalists will be chosen to take part in an eight-week program beginning in January. This will help them hone their entrepreneurial proposition and learn skills that will serve them in their business ventures outside of the UMSL community. At the end of this program, three finalists will be chosen to receive cash prizes of $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000. Finalists will have the opportunity to compete for additional monetary rewards against finalists from the other schools in the UM System.

Regarding those who should enter this competition, Tamas Javor, the assistant director of UMSL Accelerate, explains that the people hosting this contest “want to get out in front of as many students as possible.”

Graduate and undergraduate students alike are welcome to apply. Javor encourages students who have entrepreneurial ambitions, regardless of their major, to consider taking part in the competition, because “entrepreneurship comes from everywhere.”

Javor acknowledges that when it comes to making your own business, “it is a daunting process to get started” on your own, and therefore students should take advantage of this opportunity to explore their ideas through a guided process. Students who wish to strengthen their business idea and build a more complete picture of what their final entrepreneurial venture would look like in practice will benefit from participation in this competition.

UMSL and the UM System “want to become top leaders in the entrepreneurship space,” Javor says. This competition will help them make steps toward accomplishing that goal.

Students who are interested can learn more about this competition and apply by visiting eq.umsystem.edu.