Have you seen Start It Up, EO’s mini-series chronicling the 2022 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) competition? You can watch all four inspiring episodes on EO’s GSEA Competition YouTube Channel.
Libby Rothschild is an EO New Jersey member, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Dietitian Boss, where she shows dietitians how to go from zero to creating a six-figure virtual practice using her trademarked method. As a successful entrepreneur with a passion for startups, Libby shared her experience in helping EO New Jersey launch its virtual GSEA competition.
What happens when you get a group of entrepreneurs together? They figure out how to launch initiatives and lead leaders.
As an EO member who has been a co-chair for previous initiatives, it didn’t take long to see the power of GSEA in supporting young entrepreneurship. That’s why when the opportunity presented itself, I excitedly joined fellow EO New Jersey members and GSEA chairs Larry Prager and Mike Schofel to team up and support the first-ever virtual GSEA competition in New Jersey. Our goal was to run the contest virtually and successfully select a winner.
The outcome of New Jersey’s GSEA competition includes awarding a student entrepreneur as the winner of a US$5,000 prize and resources from our chapter. This project included help from two chairs, multiple co-chairs, a past winner, chapter mentors and referrers. The relationship between the referral partners and competitors is hugely important. The GSEA program serves as a great opportunity for students to learn what it’s possible to achieve as a new entrepreneur while bringing attention to EO and our organization’s abundant resources.
Larry Prager had a vision of kicking off the competition virtually by creating a process for judges to use Google surveys to rank the student presenters. Without an in-person option, Larry and Mike organized a quick and effective process for the judges to easily score, discuss and give feedback to competitors via Zoom.
The scores were input from judges in real time, and breakout rooms were coordinated by our tech chair, Steve Ferman. The largest hurdle with shifting from in-person to virtual includes greater project management before competition time in coordinating the various tech platforms involved.
In addition to a well-designed virtual competition from an organizational side, the chairs live streamed the competition for marketing and promotion purposes. Live streaming can support future applicants who want to learn what competition day looks like. The best part of coordinating the event included having a past NJ GSEA winner, Sarah Pomeranz, as a judge to lend her unique perspective.
The event wouldn’t have been possible without having qualified students apply for the competition. For years we have relied on amazing referrers including Alfred Blake, Elizabeth Rich and Eric Ligouri–we are extremely grateful for their critical input.
This year, the chairs were open to my testing a new idea: building up the chapters’ LinkedIn page. I suggested interviewing two past winners and one of our referrers in an effort to attract more student applicants in New Jersey. It worked!
Here are our top three tips and best practices to help motivate your chapter to run your next GSEA competition virtually:
1. Put maximum effort into streamlining competition day
Create simple processes (ie Google surveys) and pre-arranged breakout rooms (ie via Zoom) for the day of competition so your event will stay on schedule. This is especially true for virtual competitions because of the various technologies in play and the necessity of coordinating multiple people along the shared timeline.
2. Involve past winners
Involving EO New Jersey’s 2020 GSEA winner, Sarah Pomeranz, both in the process of promoting the competition and the competition itself (as a judge) created a more diverse panel. Competitors responded well to Sarah being involved because she’s a former student and winner—plus she’s very intelligent and kind. Competitors asked her multiple questions and wanted her specific feedback, which shows how valuable a former competitor is as a judge and participant in the competition.
3. Include marketing efforts on social media
As a co-chair, I was encouraged to use my marketing skills toward promoting our virtual GSEA competition. I suggested recording conversations as testimonials from participants. I interviewed two past winners, Sarah Pomeranz and Kwaku Agyemang, plus a referrer, Alfred Blake. I posted clips of our interviews on our chapter’s GSEA LinkedIn page to encourage potential applicants to apply. With the dual goals of getting both more diverse applicants and a larger number of applicants, we will continue to use social media as a platform to attract students entrepreneurs in coming years.