Small-Scale ‘Apprentice’ at UCI

As pioneers of the ‘lost generation,’ we are often thought to simply sit on our asses while the ‘motivated’ turn their creative ideas into tangible enterprises. Instead of fulfilling our mandate as the new wave of corporate sharks, many of us have succumbed to the status of guppy. How many of us have wanted to turn off the light with a single clap but never imagined the wish could develop into a best-selling electronic device?
Now, with help from the Graduate School of Management, every student who has ever had an original entrepreneurial idea has the opportunity to put their design to work in UCI’s Business Plan Competition.
Nicole Scarcello, assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation believes that there are multiple benefits for students in the competition.
‘The competition is a great educational experience held in order to assist students on how to start a business,’ Scarcello said.
The Business Plan Competition allows the CEI to bridge the gap between the yuppies of the Reagan era who head the corporate fish bowl, and the guppies of the lost generation who are unsure how to begin capitalizing.
The competition, which kicks off on Jan. 21 and ends in May, is just one of many resources that the CEI has developed for the benefit of students.
According to one of last year’s finalists, current Graduate School of Management student Tom Pearson, students with a business mind thrive in these situations.
‘There are few things more exciting than launching your own start up based on your own idea,’ Pearson said.
Pearson’s keen sense for innovation and communication skills as a sales performer earned him nearly $25,000 in award money.
The winnings have enabled him to further research in the development and testing of his product, a medical device designed as an alternative to surgery and other uncomfortable treatments associated with sleep apnea.
‘This has been an invaluable experience for me,’ Pearson said. ‘It has been a hands-on educational experience in product development, intellectual property protection, teamwork and presentation skills.’
As tempting as award money is in itself, as Pearson says, the cash is not the only bait the competition offers.
During phase one of the bi-partite competition, participants are given an opportunity to fine-tune their entrepreneurial skills by attending workshops focused on writing executive summaries and concept papers.
Twenty exemplary finalists are chosen from this primary phase and are assigned coaches, who assist them in developing a viable business plan to finally present to a panel of judges, all top-notch executives.
Prior to registration, participants of the Business Plan Competition are asked to form groups of at least three, two of which must be UCI students, graduate or undergraduate, from any department.
The groups have to come up with a realistic, original idea developed for a clear target consumer.
‘We highly encourage other students to participate,’ Scarcello said. ‘The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is here as a resource to support students with goals and to motivate them to develop their business ideas.’
The competition is more of an opportunistic invitation than a mere contest. It serves as a catalyst for the development of a student’s concise business idea.
Pearson was fortunate enough to present his sleep apnea device to a board of venture capitalists in New York. This educational experience was just another door opened for Pearson as a result of winning the competition.
This could be a reality for other students as well.
‘I would advise Anteaters with business ideas to talk to as many people as they can about their idea,’ Pearson said. ‘Find out who the experts are in the related fields, contact them, as well as angle investors and venture capitalists.’
Even the guppies have a chance to survive in an intimidating world of sharks.
So for all of us pioneers of the lost generation apprehensive about crossing over into the fish bowl of professional life, UC Irvine’s GSM and the CEI have provided a way to ease the transition.
The Business Plan Competition allows us to turn our lost entrepreneurial dreams into discovered reality.

For more information, please visit the Graduate School of Management’s Web site at or contact Nicole Scarcello at