UC Berkeley students, faculty hold College Leap competition to support community college entrepreneurs

College Leap
Daniel Sun/Courtesy
The competition, held virtually on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, gives participants the opportunity to network and to practice presenting business plans.

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College Leap, a national nonprofit organization founded by UC Berkeley students in 2019 that aims to empower international and transfer students at community colleges, is holding its National Business Plan Competition, or NBPC, this fall.

The NBPC aims to give community college students, particularly international and transfer students, opportunities to learn about entrepreneurial concepts and collaborate with their peers, according to campus sophomore and member of the College Leap leadership team Serena Cheng and UC Santa Barbara junior Dillon Johnson. The competition will offer educational workshops, provide feedback from judges on students’ business plans and connect participants with business organizations on campus.

“Given the fact that international students know little about opportunities and resources because of language barriers, personal connections, and immigrant status, it’s important and essential that there should be a hand to provide extra help and information channels outside of the campus,” said campus senior and member of the nonprofit leadership team Bill Wang in an email.

The first round of the competition will take place from Oct. 5 to Oct. 17, followed by the regional round on Oct. 24 and the final round on Nov. 7, according to Cheng and Johnson.

With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting challenges for students to travel, the competition will be held virtually and is important for students as many events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, said campus senior and College Leap co-founder Jay Zhao.

Shelter-in-place orders coupled with difficulties traveling have left some students isolated, and this competition gives them an opportunity to “not stand still,” but rather engage with other students with a sense of “purpose” while acquiring business skills, according to Gigi Wang, campus industry fellow and NBPC judge.

Wang added that she is interested to hear the students present their business plans and said this is her chance to give feedback and help international students build a broader network with others.

“As an international student and immigrant, it’s not easy to fit into society in the U.S.,” Wang said. “International students need more programs to engage, otherwise they’ll sit watching the world go by.”

Lecturer at the Haas School of Business and competition judge Alex Budak said anyone should be able to see themselves as an entrepreneur and even if students do not become one, it is helpful to think like one.

The competition enables students to brainstorm about the social impact of entrepreneurship and how it can help people, Budak added.

“There’s no better way to learn than to actually try it and go through the process of creating a startup,” Budak said.

Shylie Ati is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.