Ole Pitch Nights, giving fun and creative opportunities for students to hone their entrepreneurial instincts, are hosted by a student group called Ole Ventures Entrepreneurship Club or Ole Ventures for short. The group’s mission is to bring “together leaders from the St. Olaf community to create a better and more sustainable world through business and innovation.” Ole Pitch Nights, which kicked off on Feb. 20, are one way of accomplishing this goal.
During Pitch Nights, anyone is welcome to present an original idea for a product or service in front of the audience. At the end of each night, the crowd votes for a favorite pitch, which is then awarded a 50 dollar prize from the Piper Center. Each night has a topic theme, but pitches do not necessarily have to be confined to these subjects if someone has a business idea in another area. Pitch Nights started with a technology night, followed by environment pitch night on Feb. 27.
Environmental ideas ranged from a Febreze clip that students could wear so that they would have to shower less, thereby conserving water, to bringing eco-friendly, St. Olaf-themed clothing items to the bookstore. Ideas on other topics, such as fitness, were also shared during the hour.
Pitch Nights continued on Thursday, March 6, with a health and wellness theme. Remaining Pitch Night themes include philanthropy on Thursday, March 13 and international ventures on March 20. All pitch nights run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lair and all students are welcome to pitch ideas and/or come listen.
Ole Ventures has been a long standing club but has recently begun to see some changes.
“We have steered the club towards more socially responsible ventures that have been started by college students around the country,” club president Gabby Keller ’14 said.
The club teaches students important skills for creating businesses, connects students with entrepreneurs and businesses and supports socially responsible business.
Coming up in May, the Ole Cup will offer another opportunity for students to present their entrepreneurial ideas, with a $7,000 grand prize to the winner. They also will advance to the semi-final round of the Minnesota Cup, where $20,000 is up for grabs. The competition is open to any individual or group of students of any age, as long as they are in good academic standing.
The Ole Cup was started by 1982 St. Olaf graduate Brad Cleveland ’82, current CEO of Proto Labs. He will also be one of the judges of the contest, along with other distinguished Ole alumni and business pioneers. Contestants will be judged based on innovation, viability and quality of presentation. In addition to the cash award, the grand prize winner will be paired with alumni and mentors to receive support in implementing their idea over the next year. Second and third place prizes of $5,000 and $3,000, respectively, are also awarded.
The Ole Cup is part of the Entrepreneurial Summit, a one-day event held on May 3. The Ole Cup will also include talks from President David Anderson ’74 and keynote speaker CEO of Robotex Adam Gettings ’04 and a reception for all participants and attendees.
Ole Ventures offers great opportunities for St. Olaf students to get involved and gain business experience. The club places emphasis on being socially and environmentally responsible and offers a way to incorporate service into careers, an idea the Piper Center describes as ‘vocation.’ It hosts events such as the current Ole Pitch nights and the upcoming Ole Cup to prepare Oles to enter the business world.
Photo Credit: BEKAH ENGSTRAND/MANITOU MESSENGER