By Barbara Young —

We all go to college for one reason: to get a job. But what if you could take the matter into your own hands and make your own job through entrepreneurship? The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament is here to help.

The tournament is an “effort by the University of Wisconsin extension to try to spur entrepreneurship,” said Randy Hulke, director of the Discovery Center at University of Wisconsin–Stout.

So how does it work? Students get involved in the tournaments in teams of one to three people that generally start with one person having a product or service idea.

Take, for example, Daniel Degallier, a senior in the Business major with an Industrial Design concentration and Studio Art minor. Degallier currently runs his own drone photography business, but wants to venture out and differentiate himself from other drone photography businesses.

“I’m trying to find a more niche business plan for drones,” Degallier said. “I’m looking at agriculture or forestry business that can stay local. It’s such a wide open market right now.”

Degallier had the service he wanted to base the business around but he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it alone. He identified the skills he lacked, programming and online cloud-based services, and then found a person he knew that had these skills. With a team member, Dagallier was able to begin exploring the drone market to find where holes in current businesses are and exploit them.

The contest comes into play at this step. The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament is a competition of business plans; the student who presents the soundest business model wins.

“A lot of times a business is built around a product,” said Hulke. “This is more about, how do you have a commercial venture come out of that?”

The tournament provides a Learn@Stout course for all contestants that guides them through the Lean Startup, a business planning system by Eric Ries. The plan focuses on better and faster business plans meant to prevent failure of businesses. The plan has been responsible for business successes such as Dropbox and imvu.

Throughout the course of the competition, a Stout-provided mentor will work with their team. “We want to stay close to the teams as they go through the contest,” said Hulke. “It’s in our best interest to make sure they produce the best models possible, and an interested mentor is really going to help with that.”

To enter the contest, contestants with a clear idea must go to and register. Once registered, contestants will be automatically enrolled in the accompanying Learn@Stout course. Contestants should also notify Hulke of their enrollment so he can provide them with a mentor.

This is the third year of the competition, but Stout’s first year participating.

The tournament is two tiered; each University of Wisconsin school hosting their own competition has students compete to win one of two spaces for their school in the final state wide competition. The winner of the Wisconsin Best Idea Tournament will then move on to the International Business Model Competition.

The contest gives students a chance to build an effective business model and compete for $25,000.

Registrations are due as early as possible. The end of November will be the cut-off. Contestants will then have until around spring break to complete the Learn@Stout course and prepare their business model. The two winning models will move onto the final contest on April 11 at the Pile Center in Madison, Wis.


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