The Big Ideas is a competition where student compete with business ideas. They get the change to submit a business plan, pitch to a panel of judges – dragon’s den style- and compete for the first prize: a chance to travel to the US to represent the UK in a global entrepreneurship challenge.
It all sounded very distant when I first heard about the competition, almost exactly a year ago. For some reason I remember exactly the moment my friend Daniella met me at the gym and proposed that we submit a business idea to the competition. At first I though “we wouldn’t stand a chance”. I don’t even know what a business plan is. Words like USP, renevue and marketing strategy were foreign concepts to me. Still, as we were pedalling on our spinning bikes, we started to discuss what we could come up with for a business idea, and a seed started to grow.
A couple of weeks later we were at the Hub for innovation and enterprise for our first one-to-one business advice session. We are both creative individuals, now with big ambitions for a do-good social enterprise that would fundraise for projects to save the rainforest. The first thing we were asked was: “How will you promote your business to someone who doesn’t care about the rainforest?” We didn’t really have an answer to this question. In our world, everyone clearly cared about saving the rainforest, so what was the need for this question? However, as we walked out of the meeting we started to realise that the receivers of our business plan might have completely different perspectives than ourselves, and that this needed to inform our every decision. This is when we started working for real to develop our concept into a feasible business proposal.
For me the Big Ideas competition was all about leaving your comfort zone, and putting your abilities to a test. Over the following weeks, Me and Daniella, an English and a Liberal arts student, conducted market research, interviewed students, made a stop-motion video and tried to convince random people on campus to participate in video testimonials. We started filling out the business plan, realising that we could actually do things we never thought we would have been able to do. Even though creating a spreadsheet for our finances or finalising our unique selling point required both the support from the Hub and multiple last minute-late-night phone calls to various friends studying business, it was a real confidence boost to submit a finished business plan. We also made a lot of interesting connections through asking people for help.
I’m not going to lie, the day of the competition was a little nerve racking. We had found out that our idea had been shortlisted to pitch as the Big Ideas competition a couple of weeks earlier. Since then we had made a power point presentation and prepared a pitch. We arrived at the Hub and met the other teams, who all seemed like they knew their thing really well. Waiting for it to be our turn we started feeling nervous, but when we walked into the pitching room it was as if something just clicked. I wasn’t that nervous anymore because I suddenly felt that this is our idea, and we know it so well that we will be able to answer any questions the judges might ask about the concept.
Still, when they announced the winners of the competition, and that it was me and Daniella, I felt nothing but surprise. The whole process of participating into the competition had held a little doubt in the back of my mind that this was out of our competence and reach. We didn’t know enough about business. However, in the end, a competition like the Big Ideas is more about having a passion, an innovative idea that you really believe in. The rest you can always learn from sources, or from asking for help. If you have an idea that you really believe in, in the end you’ll convince even those who don’t care about the rainforest to invest in your ambition.
Find out more about the Big Ideas Competition here.