Student Competition Helps Build Member Pipeline for Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Thousands of student entrepreneurs from around the globe competed in EO’s annual Global Student Entrepreneur Awards program, with a chance to win a $20,000 grand prize. While only one student wins, all participants made connections that can last a lifetime.

While associations continue to search for that one brilliant idea to help them attract and retain younger members, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization is just standing over here like…

GSEA photo 1Photo credit: Entrepreneurs’ Organization

These are just a handful of the 42 undergraduate students who were invited to Washington, DC, last week to participate in the final round of EO’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) program.

Started in 1999, GSEA recognizes students who have successfully operated a business for at least six months. The final round is the culmination of a yearlong journey that included more than 2,000 students from around the globe competing for a chance to win $20,000.

“What’s different about GSEA is that we’re really rating the entrepreneur themselves, not the business. This isn’t a business pitch,” said Miranda Barrett, CAE, vice president of membership strategy at EO. “The way we coach our judges is [by asking], ‘Would you want to invest in this person in 10 years? Do they have the DNA of an entrepreneur?’ That’s really what EO is all about and that’s what we were looking for in these students.”

The winner, 24-year-old Steinar Henskes, a student at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, is the CEO of Bird Control Group, a company that designs animal-safe lasers that keep birds away from commercial facilities such as airports. The product has already been recognized by the World Wildlife Fund for innovation, effectiveness, and animal friendliness.

And while the recognition and $20,000 award will go a long way toward helping Henskes build his company, GSEA is all about creating connections and developing relationships within EO, Barrett said.

“Members of EO are all people who have successful businesses, doing over $1 million in revenue. This is about connecting them and our organization with the next generation of students,” she said. “A lot of the students who participate … continue that relationship with the local chapters and the national organization, so they’re getting mentorship from successful entrepreneurs because of this program.”

EO members also benefit, Barrett explained.

“There is coaching and mentorship really in both directions,” she said. “Our EO members want to stay connected with what’s coming up, what are the cool new trends in social media, etc. And these kids provide this great outlet for our existing members to continue to learn.”

Global Student Entrepreneur Awards program winner Steinar Henskes (center) accepts his $20,000 grand prize. (Entrepreneurs' Organization)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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