What’s Your Big Idea?

Venture Launch Weekend seeks business plans for entrepreneurial competition

Participants at a previous Venture Launch Weekend, an entrepreneurial development program at the University of Mississippi, listen to a point being made during the presentations. Photo courtesy Mabus Agency

Editor’s note: In response to the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), all university-sponsored events have been canceled or postponed until further notice. Please visit communications.olemiss.edu/coronavirus for continued updates from the university.

OXFORD, Miss. – An idea is all that is needed for Venture Launch Weekend, a two-day business plan development competition hosted by the University of Mississippi and aimed at people interested in entrepreneurship, start-ups or creating a business.

Set for March 27-28 at the Jackson Avenue Center, Venture Launch Weekend is open to Ole Miss students, faculty and staff, and community members who want to develop a business idea, pitch their plan and launch their endeavor.

Early-bird registration is $25 through March 20, with general admission registration at $35 until March 27.

“Venture Launch Weekend is an intense two-day event for aspiring entrepreneurs who have a business idea but don’t know exactly what to do next,” said William Nicholas, UM director of economic development. “Teams form around the top ideas and spend the next 24 hours, with assistance from mentors, trying to determine if it has market potential.

“It is a great example of collaboration between the university and community members that is intended to promote entrepreneurship.”

Each entrepreneur whose idea is selected will be tasked with assembling a team to help develop it. So, even if a person doesn’t have an idea ready for Venture Launch Weekend, they can use their business development skills in areas from finance and marketing to design and legal to assist a team.

“Ideas are important, but ideas stay ideas unless you act upon them,” said Tong Meng, management instructor and director of programs at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the School of Business Administration.

“Someone who has an idea might not have the necessary resources, network or skills to start a business. Therefore, we hope to provide this opportunity for people to connect with individuals who have complementary skills, and everyone has something they can bring to the table.”

Each team also will be assigned a business coach to help develop its plan. Coaches include business counselors from the Mississippi Small Business Development Center and local lending service officers.

Business plans will be judged upon their real-world viability, whether they enrich the Mississippi business community and their potential for long-term success.

The first-place team will receive $500, with second place receiving $300 and third place, $200.

Throughout the weekend, attendees also will hear from business leaders addressing entrepreneurial concerns, such as Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, a Tupelo-based marketing and advertising agency. Mabus’ talk is titled “Quitting vs. Failing: Knowing the Difference to Stay the Course.”

Other speakers include Clay Dibrell, co-director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a management professor at Ole Miss; Stacey Lantagne, associate professor of law; and Dave Delaney, a Grow with Google speaker who will present his talk “Reach Customers Online with Google.”

Delaney’s appearance is a unique opportunity for participants to learn straight from the leader in online marketing and analytics, said Allen Kurr, vice president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.

Beyond the talk about the importance of small business and entrepreneurship, Venture Launch Weekend puts action behind words, Mabus said.

“The partners involved put their money, effort, time and attention to work to help foster business ideas into businesses,” he said. “It’s an invigorating weekend of watching businesses come to life.”

The event is sponsored by the university and its Office of Technology Commercialization and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Insight Park, the Mabus Agency, the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Grow with Google.

“Public-private partnerships like the one the University of Mississippi and the Economic Development Foundation share are key to developing and delivering a high-quality entrepreneurship program such as Venture Launch Weekend,” Kurr said. “This upcoming Venture Launch Weekend is special because we are able to utilize the brightest minds that the entrepreneurial community has to offer.

“From Josh Mabus providing insight into how an aspiring entrepreneurship should brand their company to Stacey Lantagne providing insight into the world of intellectual property, Venture Launch Weekend will showcase the many resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs across the state.”

Last year, more than two dozen people competed in the program.