Student entrepreneur startup program leads to unconventional careers 

In today’s economy, people are constantly looking for new forms of employment.

Many have turned to social entrepreneurship. Particularly, more and more college students and young adults are entering the field.

“I think most people in college get caught up into the thinking of ‘finding a job,’ rather than even exploring the idea of creating jobs or coming up with a new innovative idea. In my opinion, college is one of the best places for that to occur because a lot people are here to help you,” said Ibi Pashaei, a sophomore at Mason studying kinesiology and business.

David Miller, director of entrepreneurship at the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship (MCSE), noticed this phenomenon, and recently started “Pitch Mason 1.0” as a way to engage more people in entrepreneurial work.

“We are trying to create a network of Mason students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members who are interested in entrepreneurship, and a place where they can go to pitch their ideas, gain feedback, and eventually start-up,” said Miller, an entrepreneur himself, who is also a faculty member in Mason’s School of Management as well as a Ph.D. candidate at Mason’s School of Public Policy.

The point of this project is to host “Pitch Mason” days, which are essentially competitions where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. The judges then pick a winner from the candidates.

This first Pitch Mason day occurred February 15. Four candidates presented their ideas and were judged by four qualified judges, one of which was a Mason alum.

Pashaei, an entrepreneur in the process of beginning his own eco-friendly landscaping business, was one of the four competitors at this first event.

“It was great way to give a five minute presentation and get feedback from mentors, successful entrepreneurs, and professionals,” Pashaei said.

This project is part of the center’s efforts to expand Mason’s entrepreneurial opportunities.

“It’s imperative for the entrepreneurship community at Mason to grow, and gain a foothold, in order for Mason to be a viable and big name university in the future. Startup Mason is building that community from the ground up,” said senior Jordan Bramble, another of the four contestants.

The initial idea spurred from student demand.

“Our students wanted more opportunities for members of the office to listen to their ideas and help them go where they want to go with these startup projects,” Miller said.

Bramble is in the process of starting a “location-based social media network that caters to a spontaneous lifestyle.”

Pitch Mason offered him a great platform to make his idea known.

“I got the opportunity to work with an all-star panel of judges, ranging from a Hollywood screenwriter/producer and venture capitalists to international business development experts. David Miller is doing a wonderful job of carrying the torch and growing Startup Mason into something big,” said Bramble, who is working toward a double major in physics and systems engineering.

Pitch Mason is still in its initial stages, hence the label “1.0.”

The Center for Social Entrepreneurship is looking forward to the future evolvement of this idea.

“This is the very beginning, we’re still just seeing what happens. However, as with all entrepreneurial [efforts], successful projects do not end where they begin and ideas always evolve over time,” Miller said.

Miller hopes that by the fall, the Pitch Mason competitions will offer cash prizes to the winners to aid them in their startup endeavors.

Miller also plans to eventually hold six Pitch Mason events per year.

He expects pitching and social entrepreneurship to become bigger activities at Mason and hopes to acquire a bigger venue and tar- get a larger audience.