“Get moving. This is a race!”
Bright and early on Saturday morning, students from eight different schools from as far away as the University of Illinois gathered to participate in the second annual St. Louis Race to Entrepreneurship. Even through the speed trivia and the sleepy 9 a.m. haze, the students were literally running for the prize.
Racing—and riding—throughout the greater St. Louis area, students took pictures of sites important to the St. Louis “entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Set up in “Amazing Race” style, the race teams—two racers under names such as “The Abracadabras”—could travel by bus, MetroLink, foot or other type of public transportation to reach sites determined by a clue pack. Each site was worth a specific amount of points, determined by how easy it was to reach the site from Washington University.
The clues gave students a MetroLink stop and a cryptic description for each checkpoint. In case they were stuck, the teams were encouraged to “phone a friend” and keep a third friend at a computer during the four-hour-long race.
“The goal is to help people understand entrepreneurship and see the places instrumental to entrepreneurship in St. Louis and Illinois,” said Brenda Bradford, the business division chair and associate professor of business at Missouri Baptist University.
The St. Louis Region Entrepreneurship Educators, a collection of 12 colleges and universities, are using the race as a chance to allow students interested in entrepreneurship to come together and collaborate as well as a kickoff for the Global Entrepreneurship Week in St. Louis.
According to II (pronounced two) Luscri, the student services coordinator at the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, collaboration is important for “getting our [Wash. U.] students exposed to students at other colleges. We tell students the best thing they could do is collaborate.”
Collaboration and competition between schools, and even within the Wash. U. community, led to an exciting race atmosphere. Students from the Schools of Arts & Sciences, Engineering and of course, Business, had representative teams in the race.
“It’s something to do,” said Joe Cavanagh, a senior in Arts & Sciences. “I find myself with not enough excuses to use the MetroLink.”
The planning team for the event, while emphasizing “innovation and creativity and all that stuff,” hoped to use the event as a jumping-off point to help spark a commitment to entrepreneurship throughout the St. Louis community, especially in the face of the current economy.
“We hear about the big companies…having trouble, but we don’t really get to hear about entrepreneurship,” Luscri said. The race, combined with the rest of the week, will continue to increase the commitment to St. Louis as an entrepreneurial community.
While some were enticed by the competition and some by the idea of a fun race, others, like Eric Gendal and Nathan Sokoll-Ward, were hoping to win the prize, an iPod Touch for each team member. No matter what the incentive, everyone was impressed and surprised by the high turnout.
“We thought there were going to be about five people,” juniors Gendal and Sokoll-Ward explained.
As the teams filed out to begin their own amazing entrepreneurial race, and according to Luscri, to learn some history and information about the community, the teams were given one last set of instructions.
“Get your package; get moving. This is a race!”