1-2-3(4) Pitch! The Business Simulator engages women in entrepreneurship

«Don’t dream about your dream job, create it!», the slogan for Boost Henne is an accurate description for their biggest annual event, the Business Simulator. The purpose of the event is to encourage curious female students to dip their toe into the vast pool of entrepreneurial possibilities, aiming to clarify what goes into being an entrepreneur and engaging women in starting up their own businesses.

By Vilde Falck Husum

Over the course of four days, from the 19th – 22nd   of February, 35 women took part in an intensive process competing for a prize of 25.000 NOK granted by the Aneo contribution. Through the Business Simulator, the participants were met with a full program designed to inspire, motivate, and guide all teams through the process of defining a problem to pitching a solution. In between inspirational talks, food and courses in pitching and design thinking, the teams worked on their business ideas with guidance from assigned mentors from Spark*. When asked about the main goal for the Business Simulator it is clear that providing a safe environment and getting women interested is a key driving force, contributing to Boost Hennes overall purpose:

“The goal of this event is to make people curious and interested in exploring their entrepreneurial spirit and it is a great opportunity to check if this is something you want to take further” –  Kajsa, event manager
“Also to make entrepreneurship less abstract and vague. To give people an insight to what it actually is and a safe environment for testing it out properly” – Mari, event coordinator
The leader of Boost Henne kicks off the event

Each day the event started at 3 PM to fit the busy schedule of students from all corners of NTNU. When talking to the six boosters behind the event they are impressed by the participants, stating that they continue working on their ideas even after the program of the day is done. One important part of marketing the event was to show up at all campuses, resulting in a diversity of educational backgrounds. Among the fields of study represented were Economics and administration, Industrial design, Civil and environmental engineering as well as Food science, technology, and sustainability. In addition to making entrepreneurship more available to women, this broadens availability across campuses extending beyond Gløshaugen, which is known to host most of the entrepreneurial activities at NTNU. Mina, social media and marketing manager at Boost Henne, states that the business simulator is a great opportunity to meet new people and likeminded women with similar interests, resulting in new friends, networks and maybe even a new team.

Day one: brainstorming ideas

For most participants curiosity and an interest in exploring entrepreneurship was the main reason for participating. Also, many stated that the availability of the Business Simulator for people without prior experience made it easy to sign up and test out. Further, they agreed that even though it is an intensive process that takes effort, it is a fun experience and a high-quality event with good guidance from the boosters and Spark*, as well as inspirational workshops and talks. In general, the participants were positive to the resources at NTNU for students wanting to develop their own business ideas and startups, such as this event:

“You get a real look into the entrepreneurial field and how things work up-close rather than just hearing about it. Especially when we get to actually do it ourselves” – participant
The participants during a course on market research with DNB

When it comes to the business simulator being hosted by an organization that looks to inspire women, the participants agree that it is a great initiative to spark an interest and engage women to partake in entrepreneurial activities.

“It creates a safe framework for testing out something that is a bit out of the comfort zone, you feel extra welcome when it is hosted by an organization called Boost Henne”.  – participant

As Boost Henne is part of Spark* NTNU their vision is to increase the gender representation in students that seek guidance from Spark*. From 2018 the number of female students has increased from 14 percent to 24, indicating that the project is working. One participant also stated that the Business Simulator is a great gateway for exploring the startup journey for the first time and makes it easier to pursue further in the future by gaining knowledge, experience and network. That is exactly what Boost Henne is working to achieve, to encourage women to take the first step and develop their own businesses and products, something the teams proved they were well equipped for at pitching day.

The winning team UniQ with one of the panel judges

At pitching day the panel, whose assignment was to choose a winning team, was presented and the teams were given an inspirational talk from two of the women in Arealize, to motivate and give one last boost before the grand finale. The panel consisted of representatives from Boost Hennes partner DNB, as well as StartupLab and Aneo.

In the spirit of the event’s focus on diversity, a majority of the business ideas that were pitched were focused on improving societal conditions and bettering everyday life for people with needs that are not met sufficiently today. Implementing design thinking strategies from the first day, many of the teams delved deeper into the root of a chosen problem and presented a solution to improve today’s situation. All teams presented forward-looking and innovative ideas that utilized digital technology, where one of the panel representatives even stated that the pitches at the Business Simulator were above average for the Aneo contribution. However, only one team had the pleasure of walking away with the prize and congratulations are in order for the team behind UniQ, Nurinnisa Ece Erik, Arthiha Thayanantham and Åsta Hereid Ringheim representing Øya Campus with the idea of generating a more interactive audience without compromising anonymity. Although the pitching competition wrapped up four intensive days, the participants unanimously agreed that the experience was inspirational, and many were open to the thought of revisiting their entrepreneurial side in the future.