Business program prepares young entrepreneurs for the future

Oso Launch, a cohort of student entrepreneurs in the Hankamer School of Business, provides business students with the knowledge and resources to succeed in corporation development. Photo courtesy of Oso Launch

By Clara Lincicome | Reporter

Oso Launch, a cohort of student entrepreneurs in the Hankamer School of Business, supports students in building “their ventures together through mentorship, networking, business planning and practical entrepreneurship exercises.”

The program aims to provide valuable experiences for entrepreneurs regarding their businesses during their time at Baylor.

Round Rock sophomore Layne McCalmont has been a part of Oso Launch since her freshman year when she heard about the experiential venture creation cohort at an entrepreneurship dinner offered to students in the Business LLC.

McCalmont applied to Oso Launch on the spot, saying the application asked about her business idea, if she had started it, how much she has made and what she hoped to do with the business.

“We have specific milestones we have to hit each semester or by the end of the school year,” McCalmont said. “We have to apply to business competitions, we have to make a certain amount of revenue every year, we have to give them some of our income statements to show that we are making profit.”

McCalmont was the first-place winner of the New Venture Elevator Pitch Competition through Oso Launch last April, receiving $1,000 for her business, Thrifted by Layne, where she consigns the latest trends and resells them online for affordable prices on her Instagram.

Frisco sophomore Ellie Meinershagen won second place and $500 in the competition for her elevator pitch regarding her earring business, Acute Accents, which she sells on Instagram as well as at local shops and markets.

“The concept [of the New Venture Elevator Pitch Competition] is that you would be able to give your pitch in an elevator setting, 60 to 90 seconds or less,” Meinershagen said. “You should be able to explain your business concept to anybody.”

In preparation, the students accepted to compete in the elevator pitch competition are equipped with mentorship.

“We went to pitch coaching and sat down with Gib Reynolds, and he talked to us about how to pitch your company and the most effective ways to do so,” McCalmont said.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person activities to a halt, the competition was moved to a virtual format, where competitors filmed their elevator pitch and submitted a video entry.

“I must have taken probably 15 different takes of me in front of a backdrop pitching about my business,” McCalmont said. “When I sent it in, I prayed over it and was like ‘Lord, do with this what you will.’ A couple weeks later it got announced that I had won first place.”

Meinershagen said the experience connected her with Reynolds, now her current business coach.

“I work with him weekly now,” Meinershagen said. “He’s been helping me to grow my business and expand that from me producing my stuff and selling locally to making an online presence and getting to some custom wholesale orders as well.”

Oso Launch has provided entrepreneurial students with the resources to grow in a real-life setting, rather than being confined to the classroom. The program imparts skills that are immediately applicable to their business.

“[Oso Launch has] given me so many networking skills. I know who to go [to] for advice. I also know that I can run a business by myself,” McCalmont said. “I feel fully confident that if I want to start a new business after college, that I can do that because of the experiences, knowledge and also support that the professors and students at Baylor have given me.”

As for Meinershagen, she said this program and her experiences with her business have given her a new appreciation for the Waco community.

“Oso Launch specifically has connected me with a lot of local community members,” Meinershagen said. “I feel like I am getting more immersed in the Waco community through the program, so that my business can be more sustainable and plugged in.”