Orange County Competition Empowers Young Entrepreneurs

In a business landscape where the word “startup” is intrinsically tied to Millennial culture, it might surprise you that people under the age of 34 are starting businesses at the lowest rate in a quarter-century. During a July testimony before the U.S. Senate, John Lettieri, co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group, put it in stark terms: “Millennials are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in recent history.”

These statements beg a crucial question: how do we encourage more young people to be entrepreneurs?

According to the Kaufman Institute, an education and entrepreneurship think tank, the answer is surprisingly simple. Its research found a strong connection “between knowing and being an entrepreneur”—so strong that in one study, participants who knew other entrepreneurs were 20 times more likely to be one themselves. The value of mentorship is also well documented, especially for entrepreneurs. Yet in one Harvard University study, young professionals had significant difficulty identifying a mentor who had helped them in business.

To bridge these gaps and empower the next generation of business owners, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is holding its local Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) competition on Nov. 11 in Irvine. The competition is designed to help student entrepreneurs accelerate their success, challenge the status quo, connect to an instrumental peer group and make the greatest impact possible in their community.

Hosted by EO Orange County, the event gives budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their businesses in a Shark Tank-style format, gain valuable feedback and connect with both peers and mentors. All students who own and operate a business while attending college are eligible to apply.

The winner of the Orange County event will receive $500 cash, $1000 in EO Business Consulting and entry into the GSEA Nationals. If he or she secures another victory there, it’s off to GSEA Global, where the top prize is $20,000. 

GSEA youth entrepreneurs hail from diverse backgrounds and more than 50 countries, but they share a dedication to driving change through business. The “2017 EO Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year,” Mexico’s Julian Rios Cantu, founded Higia Technologies after inventing a biosensor that can detect early stages of breast cancer. Violeta Martinez, who won the GSEA 2016 Finals, partners with artisans in her home country of El Salvador—supporting the local economy with each item in her VAIZA fashion line.

 Orange County GSEA participants will pitch their businesses to expert judges including Becky Huling, VP of Marketing at Fedex; Mark Moses, CEO of Coaching International; and Farhad Imam, a senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The event will be emceed by Scott Duffy, co-host of Business and Burgers Presented by Microsoft and best-selling author of Launch! The Critical 90 Days From Idea to Market

OE is the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs. This year’s Orange County GSEA competition is set for 4-7 p.m. Nov. 11 at Custom Silicon Solutions, 18021 Cowan in Irvine. To enter the competition, apply at gsea.org/apply.

Clint Lawrence

EO Orange County

2017 GSEA Chair