Since its founding in 2003, the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has served as a catalyst for many entrepreneurial activities at Washington University, ranging from offering stimulating new courses to providing internships for undergraduate students, creating IdeaBounce.com (an online forum for posting ideas for new ventures), and creating community partnerships.
In 2003, Washington University was named one of eight Kauffman Campuses to receive a $3 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation through the Kauffman Campuses Initiative for Entrepreneurial Education. In 2004, the university received a $2.3 million gift from Robert and Julie Skandalaris, with $2 million earmarked as endowment for the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. It was the third major gift from the Skandalarises in support of entrepreneurship education, and the center was named in their honor.
Over time, the Skandalaris Center has developed a wide array of signature programs, including its two business plan competitions.
The Olin Cup Competition
The Olin Cup provides $70,000 in seed funding to winning teams for commercial ventures. Initially part of Olin Business School, the Olin Cup became a stand-alone business formation competition in 2003, awarding seed money rather than prizes. Its successes include:
Blessing Basket • In 2004, the Blessing Basket Project received $20,000. Founded by St. Louisan Theresa Wilson, the project has trained women in Africa and South Asia to weave beautiful baskets, which are sold in the United States. The sales bring transformative economic benefit to the women and their communities.
NanoMed LLC • In 2011, NanoMed LLC won $50,000 in seed investment for creating a synthetic surgical mesh made from electrospun nanofiber material that can replace the protective covering of the brain. Created by Matthew MacEwan, a graduate student in medicine and in biomedical engineering, and Nalin Katta, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, NanoMed has won two additional international competitions and has hired its first CEO.
Youthbridge Social Enterprise & Innovation Competition
YouthBridge SEIC provides $150,000 in grants to winning teams proposing social ventures. The competition is a partnership between the Skandalaris Center and the YouthBridge Community Foundation. Many of the social venture ideas have included alumni and students on their teams.
Janji • In 2011 Janji received a total of $15,000 in the YouthBridge SEIC competition: the $10,000 Skandalaris award and the $5,000 award for the best student venture.
Sweet Sensations • In 2012, the team proposing Sweet Sensations — which teaches North St. Louis teens about entrepreneurship and sustainability through beekeeping — received the YouthBridge Community Foundation award of $35,000. Team members include Phil Minden, MBA ’11; Leon Threat, MSW ’97; and Ernecia Coles, MSW ’96.
Migrant Immigrant and Community Action (MICA) Project • The $30,000 Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis award went to the Migrant Immigrant and Community Action (MICA) Project, which combines legal representation, social services and community development to immigrant communities. Team founders include Jessica Mayo, JD ’12, and Nicole Cortés, JD/MSW ’12. MICA also won the $5,000 student award.
Answers.com • Not every venture nurtured by the Skandalaris Center has become an instant success, but today Answers.com, started in 2003 by two undergraduate computer science students, has become one of the country’s hottest Internet companies. (Their 2010 revenue exceeded $100 million.) Founders David Karandish and Chris Sims, pursued internships through the center and took entrepreneurship course work to hone their team and their venture. Today they are giving back to the university in countless ways, including funding multiple internships for WUSTL students.