Small business ideas by students. Pib by Melissa Petrie

The $1000 business ideas scholarship challenge, 2016

Universities and colleges across the U.S. are brimming with new business ideas from student entrepreneurs that can be a fantastic source of inspiration for every aspiring entrepreneur, from school right the way through to retirees looking to start their own business.

We want to shine a light on the creativity and innovation being demonstrated at universities across the nation by students with a passion for entrepreneurship and sharing new ideas.

The best part?

Win $1000 scholarship by sharing your business idea in 800 characters or less.

You don't have to be a winner or finalist in your own college competition. You simply need to have entered a college business competition in 2016 (and be able to prove your idea or startup was entered in that competition) in order to qualify and stand a chance to win a scholarship of $1000.

Who's it for

Who can enter the $1000 Business ideas challenge. Pic by North Charleston
The competition is open to any student, or team of students, studying at a U.S. university or college, who participates in their own school's business oriented competition over the course of 2016 - regardless of whether it is a business plan, business idea, new venture, or any other officially sanctioned (by their college) competition.

Ideas submitted to the $1000 business ideas challenge must be unique, original, and/or solve an existing problem in a new or elegant way.

There's a great list of winners from previous years at top 10 new business ideas from university entrepreneurs, so check that out to get an idea of what we look for.

Why enter

Why enter the business ideas challenge. Pic by CollegeDegress360

We could all do with $1000 towards our education, right? But that's not the real reason you should consider sharing your idea. Here's a few better reasons:

  • Be seen by plenty of other entrepreneurs - maybe, just maybe, an invaluable partner or investor will reach out.
  • Winning a scholarship for coming up with awesome entrepreneurial ideas looks good on anyone's CV.
  • Get some visibility and recognition. We'll be writing press releases about entrants and the competition and a little media coverage can go a long way.
  • Get your foot in the door. If an investor or startup founder has already heard of you from the $1000 business ideas challenge, you've got one foot in the door already.
  • Bragging rights. Making the final 10, or even winning, any type of competition that is open nationally means you're going to have some serious credibility going forward.

So, what've you got to lose? Nothing, that's what. So what are you waiting for? Enter now.

How to enter

How to enter the $1000 Business ideas challenge. Pic by Oxford's Balliol college
Entering is simple and shouldn't take more than a few minutes in total:

  1. Add your idea to our small business ideas page: You'll need to be succinct as there is an 800 character limit. Tell us what your idea is about and what problem it solves - think of it as an elevator pitch.
  2. Confirm which university/college competition your idea belongs to: Link to your SME Pals entry from your university competition site (hint: more details in the 'Verifying your entry' section below).

Simple, right? Here's a quick example of how you might tag an entry on your university business competition page:

We entered our idea to train disease sniffing rats into the $1000 business ideas challenge.

Once you have successfully posted your idea to our small business ideas page, and confirmed your attendance and entry into a university competition (by linking from the university competition website to your entry here), we'll confirm your entry via Twitter.

How to post a winning entry

You have 800 characters to get your idea across to the judges. You are allowed to include code snippets to YouTube videos, or upload an image (although this counts as part of your character quota).

Browse through the small business ideas page to see how other ideas have been presented.

As a general rule, try and include a sample problem the idea might be applied to, what the idea is, how it works, and why it would make a great business. Some ideas are great on paper, but may not be practical in the real world. Try to be make a balanced, considered case that shows why the idea could readily transition into a successful startup.

Verifying your entry

In order to ensure we only consider business ideas from genuine college students, it is important for us to be able to verify where entries come from. Here's how we do it.

1. Post your idea to SME Pals and wait for it to be published

Once you have posted your business idea entry to SME Pals, we will need to moderate and possibly edit the idea to ensure it is suitable for publication. The idea is then published, and tweeted and shared with our network.

2. Link to your entry from the university competition website

You'll need to then verify you are a student who has participated in a college/university business competition by linking to your SME Pals entry from the university website.

3. Notify us via email

You must notify us via email (staff [at] smepals [dot] com) in order for us to know where to look in order to verify and approve your entry. Go for something simple, like:

"Our $1000 business ideas entry, entitled 'Training disease sniffing rats' has been tagged at [insert university competition webpage address]."

Remember to supply the URL of the university webpage used to verify your entry.

4. Receive confirmation

We will then check to ensure the idea matches the one presented on the university site and confirm your entry via Twitter (and email if requested).

In the event you do not receive explicit confirmation within 2 working days of emailing us proof, please resend your email.

Competition dates

Entries can be submitted at any time during 2016 with a top 10 list of finalists to be announced on the 30th of January, 2017.

No entries submitted after the 31st Dec, 2016 will be eligible.

The winner will be announced on the 5th February, 2017 along with an award for $1000.

Competition rules

Only ideas that are active entries into college competitions running in 2016 are eligible. In other words, ideas that were entered into competitions in 2015 or earlier will not be considered.

Provided your idea is part of a legitimate college competition in 2016 (even if the competition itself finishes in 2017, you'll be eligible).

Only one entry per student/team per university competition allowed. However, if you have entered more than one unique idea into more than one university competition, then you may enter both ideas.

Each idea may only be entered once. If you enter an idea that has already been entered (and verified) by another university, it's 'first come, first served' and only the original entry will be considered.

The $1000 prize will be awarded to a single winner, or split between then individuals of a winning team - i.e. if a team of two people entered their idea, each would receive $500.

Become a sponsor

We're going to be promoting news and information about this competition as it evolves. There are plenty of opportunities for our sponsors to receive fantastic visibility and exposure to both the entrepreneur community, as well as a college/university audience.

Want a seat on the judging panel? Want to contribute to the scholarship prize? There are a myriad number of opportunities to suit your requirements. To find out more drop us an email to request a sponsor info pack, and tell us more about yourself.

Please note that we reserve the right to select suitable sponsors at our own discretion.

Terms & conditions

We don't have a lot of serious information to cover. The whole concept is pretty simple - share your business idea, confirm you are from a university or college competition, and stand a chance to win $1000.

But, for completeness sake, here are a few terms and conditions you should be aware of (please note that we reserve the right to update these at any time):

  • There must be a minimum of 10 individual entries before the finalists can be selected and a winner chosen. If there are less than 10 entries by the end of 2016, no prize will be awarded.
  • The judges decisions on the top 10 entries, and the overall winner, will be final and at their complete discretion. No correspondence will be entered into.
  • Entrants agree that their ideas are their own, or that they have the owners permission to share them. You are entirely responsible for any copyright infringement or legal disputes arising from your entry.
  • Entry into the challenge is at your own risk, and neither SME Pals, it's officers, sponsors or any organization associated with it is liable for any damages whatsoever.
  • SME Pals reserves the right to edit entries in order to ensure overall editorial quality.

Got questions?

Still waiting for your entry to be confirmed? It's possible we might have missed something, so it's worth getting in touch to tell us which entry you submitted, and where we can find your verification link on your university site.

Need help with something? We're always happy to offer advice and assistance (if we can), so feel free to ask. If the same question crops up time and again, we'll add a FAQ section below.

The easiest way to get in touch with us is via email using our online contact form.

WAH with your own freelance writing job. Pic by Evelina Ander

Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to hire yourself as a freelance writer and turn that part-time job into a successful business that earns decent money and gives you the freedom to work from home (or anywhere you want).

The Internet has an insatiable demand for content, making freelance writing one of the most popular WAH (Work At Home) job choices for thousands of bloggers and journalists around the world. This is because virtually every aspect of digital marketing relies, to some degree or another, on great underlying content.

How to earn a passive income online. Pic by John Haler

The Web is arguably the best medium from which to earn a passive income because content, software and online services can persistently drive traffic and revenue for years at a time.

In other words - build once; earn indefinitely.

The downside is that because there is this great potential to make money, a lot of people are trying it. And, with a lot of people, comes a lot of competition that makes starting out tricky. One thing's for sure; if you're not prepared to put in work upfront, forget about earning a passive income online.

Free beginner guides for entrepreneurs. Pic by James Jordan.

It’s hard work trying to find the time to develop a new business idea, create a business plan, build a website, create content, marketing, promotions, networking, investments, and everything else that has to get done.