BizFest at UTPA fosters future entrepreneurs
Posted: 08/25/2010
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Four business plans and the Rio Grande Valley students who created them at BizFest held at The University of Texas-Pan American will advance to national competition scheduled for September in Dallas, Texas.

UTPA's College of Business Administration teamed with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Foundation and the local McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to offer BizFest, an entrepreneurship and leadership training program aimed at high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates.

College of Business Administration faculty members Dr. Sibin Wu (left) and Dr. John Sargent (right) are pictured with UTPA BizFest participants (left to right) Sean Ramirez (McAllen Memorial High School), Sarai Maldonado (BETA), and Adriana Mata (Economedes High School), who will present their winning business plans at the national BizFest competition in Dallas. Not pictured is the fourth BizFest winner Michael Suarez (Juarez Lincoln High School, La Joya).
Nearly 30 students participated in the program, which was sponsored by Citi and held July 30-Aug. 1 at the University. Taught by UTPA's business college faculty, students learned how to establish entrepreneurial and leadership goals, create a life and business plan, network in business environments and make public presentations.

UTPA's BizFest coordinators Dr. John Sargent and Dr. Sibin Wu, both faculty members in the Department of Management, said participation in a program like BizFest supports the college's commitment to increasing the quality and quantity of its entrepreneurship education and outreach programs.

"We've found there is great value in exposing high school students as well as freshman and sophomore university students to the field of entrepreneurship. If you wait until the junior, senior, or masters level, students have often already made career plans and do not really fully grasp the benefits associated with pursuing an entrepreneur career. Youth entrepreneurship programs such as BizFest are perfect to systematically address this challenge," Sargent said.

A capstone of the BizFest training was the development of a viable business idea and plan, which each participant presented before a panel of judges. The top three winners won a laptop computer and a trip to attend the USHCC 31st Annual National Convention and Expo Sept. 22-25, 2010 where they will compete against other regional BizFest winners for scholarship funds at the 2010 National BizFest Competition.

Local winners, their high school, and winning business ideas and plans are: Sarai Maldonado, Business, Education, & Technology Academy in Edinburg, Hop a Ride (surrey tours); Adriana Mata, Economedes High School in Edinburg, Second Chance Animal Center (rescue for abandoned animals); and Sean Ramirez, McAllen Memorial High School, Treble Sounds (music tutoring). Michael Suarez, Juarez Lincoln High School in La Joya, was chosen later to also advance when a competitor from another region had to drop out of the national competition. His plan was for a recycling center.

The business plan Joel De Los Santos, a senior at Edinburg North High School, prepared was for South Texas Talent, a sports marketing company. He said he's really into civil engineering as a career and did not expect the BizFest to be as interesting as it was.

"It was a fun eye-opener to the many career opportunities that are out there and can be pursued," he said.

"We hope the long term result of the students' participation in this type of training will be an increase in the number of high-impact entrepreneurs in our community," Sargent said.

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