Henrickson Family Atrium in Howard L. Hawks Hall

Students study at the Henrickson Family Atrium in the Howard L. Hawks Hall College of Business on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business introduced two separate pop-up classes to give students a chance to brainstorm and learn how to implement business ideas.

The first class, the 48-hour challenge, took place over the weekend of Feb. 7-9. The challenge occurs every year and allows students to pitch their own business ideas that they would like to pursue. However, this year was the first year students could choose to take the course for credit, according to Center for Entrepreneurship associate director Samantha Fairclough.

During the weekend course, the class voted on its top ideas, formed teams and spent the rest of the weekend testing their plans, interviewing local business owners and building business models. 

At the end of the weekend, the groups presented their final product in front of a panel of judges made up of potential investors and local entrepreneurs. The challenge gives students a chance to see if their business ideas are viable, and after their final presentation, they receive feedback from the judges.

“The most exciting thing about running this event is hearing all of the ideas,” Fairclough said. “Students always blow me away with the innovation and creativity they put into it and what they can potentially do.”

Senior management major Katie Fawl said the competition was a fun opportunity to work outside of her comfort zone, learn more about the business world and expand more on her business ideas with a team.

“When students combine their forces to complete a competition like this, you learn, collaborate, lead and encourage each other to meet the goal,” she said. “As a team, we got to live like entrepreneurs for one weekend. Getting that experience was tremendously valuable.”

Throughout the weekend, Fawl led a group of students with various majors, such as management, finance, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, to develop her business idea: a water bottle made out of recycled water bottles.

“The thing I liked most about the competition was being able to work with a very diverse group of people,” she said. “Normally, an entrepreneur has to go out and find an engineer, a designer, a chemist, etc. I had all the people I needed to make my business plan happen.”

Starting Friday, Feb. 14, the Center of Entrepreneurship will also hold a five-week pop-up course called Venture Capital: Essentials of Startup Fundraising, which will teach students how to receive funding for a startup and give students firsthand knowledge on starting their own business.

“[The students] get this really great experience,” Fairclough said. “They get to work with other students, new students, people who are really passionate about entrepreneurship.”

According to Center for Entrepreneurship director Sam Nelson, experts from Invest Nebraska, a nonprofit venture group, will teach the class.

“We will actually give students an opportunity to do a deal, a mock deal, so they can see all the different components to it,” he said. “If a student does get to a point where they are trying to raise money to start their business, they will have a better idea of how to go through that process.”

Nelson said he is excited to give students an opportunity to learn from experts in the venture capital world. 

“I’m excited that we are able to bring in industry professionals to work with our students one-on-one in a classroom-like setting,” he said. “That’s something we have not done, and I think there’s a lot of potential to expand those offerings.” 

Nelson said the center would eventually like to offer a variety of different pop-up courses for students to use toward their degree. He said they would like to start an applied entrepreneurship program where students can mix and match three different hours of pop-up classes to apply toward their entrepreneurship major or minor.

Nelson said he hopes the pop-up classes can give students more insight into the business world and also further connect them with Lincoln’s businesses.

“In addition to giving the students more real-world experience, I hope it deepens our relationship with the business community,” he said. “We’re just fortunate; the people in the business community love to support their university, and we’re thankful for that.”

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