College is the time where students can foster their ideas for new businesses or unique careers they would like to pursue. For many though, these ideas may be set aside once the daunting challenge of choosing a career presents itself. The BOSS program at Ohio State, however, has been helping those students make their dreams into a reality.
The Best of Student Startups competition, otherwise known as BOSS, is a program at Ohio State that gives students a basis for launching their own business. As a semester long program, the competition allows students to not only learn about how to launch a small business, but also provides them with a platform to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and potentially win money to grow their startup.
While the program has been running since 2013, new changes implemented last year have made it both a more competitive and educational experience for those involved. Originally a competition for the best new business, students are now expected to craft their own pitches and attend a series of workshops throughout the semester. Jake Cohen, the Assistant Director for Student Programs for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, advocated for the introduction of these workshops into the program.
“We were hearing from students that they wanted the opportunity to learn throughout the semester so we switched to a workshop model,” Cohen said. “I think it is a really great model because it gives everyone an opportunity to learn, regardless of their experience level with entrepreneurship.”
All teams in the program receive the opportunity to receive feedback from the judges, most of which are staff in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ohio State. After the initial round of pitches, five teams are then chosen to move onto the finale where an external judging panel is brought in.
BOSS is designed for all students to gain something out of the competition, regardless of the state of their business. “We have students who are first-year undergraduate students who have never taken an entrepreneurship class,” Cohen said. “This is a great program for them and we also have fourth year students who maybe had a business for a couple of years, and they are still able to get something out of this program.”
In the past, businesses that placed first in the BOSS competition varied greatly as far as each individual idea. From a barbecue food truck to an app designed to help nurses, the BOSS program fosters all types of businesses. Many students interested in entrepreneurship are looking to be involved in the competition, such as freshman Peter Jobs.
“I knew I wanted to go to Ohio State, and I knew I wanted to do business,” Jobs said. “The one thing I thought I could always improve on a little bit more was entrepreneurship. I think BOSS is a great tool to practice with if you do want to go into the entrepreneurship field.”
This semester, the prize for first place will be $1500 followed by $1,000 for the runner-up. There is also a People’s Choice Award in which the team with the most votes from the audience wins.
The BOSS competition is a semester-long program. While applications have already closed for this semester, students interested in joining should visit the webpage go.osu.edu/BOSS for more information. The final judging round for this semester is open to the public and will be held in the PAST innovation lab on Wednesday, November 29 from 5:00-8:00pm.