Instead of quietly showcasing budding entrepreneurs in a classroom or UW-Eau Claire’s student center, a local campus group has planned an outdoor festival.
The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which has the apt business-world abbreviation of CEO, is hosting its first Entrepreneurfest on Wednesday evening in a recently redone part of university campus.
“It’s going to have a unique vibe to it,” said Logan Jacobson, a sophomore marketing major in CEO who is promoting the event.
Hoping for nice spring weather that will usher people outdoors, the club is going for a “music in the park” feel for the event, he said.
In addition to student entrepreneurs introducing their startup businesses, the event will feature live music, an art show, food trucks and guest speakers.
The student club is hoping the relaxing atmosphere will encourage those walking through campus on Wednesday evening to stop by and talk with student entrepreneurs to hear about their business ideas.
CEO had put on other events, namely the “Swim with the Sharks” business pitch competition, but the festival is the biggest members have planned yet.
“We’re hoping this is going to be an annual thing,” said Bradley Johnson, CEO’s president and a junior majoring in management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurfest will be one of the first big events to utilize the revamped Garfield Avenue, which the university transformed during the last two years from a street that runs through lower campus into a pedestrian-oriented area with gathering spaces along the Chippewa River.
Part of the area will be used as a stage for the guest speakers and musical act.
Eric Wolfe, CEO of Erbert and Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, will talk about his experiences as head of the Eau Claire-based restaurant chain and franchise business. Scott Peterson, a UW-Eau Claire Foundation board member who currently works at Twin Cities executive search firm Versique, will speak about his history of developing multiple startup businesses.
After the speakers, UW-Eau Claire student Samuel Stein will provide the live music.
Food trucks SmokeStream and Davis Dogs will be at the festival, along with Ramone’s Ice Cream. A cash bar also will be available.
Student artists have also been invited to put their work on display and sale.
CEO is hoping for good weather on Wednesday, but if that doesn’t turn out to happen, the event will be postponed for a future date.
The club came up with the idea of a festival in February and started planning in mid-March.
Members wanted to create a large public event, Johnson said, instead of just attending conferences, listening to guest speakers and going to workshops as typical student organizations tend to do.
“We wanted to rather than just offer things from members to consume, make it a team effort of everyone gaining experience putting something together,” he said.
This is not the first effort CEO has undertaken to provide real-world experience to its members.
In 2016, CEO launched its own organic coffee brand, Blugold Roast, through a deal with Brooklyn Center, Minn.-based Roastery 7. The coffee can be found on campus, as well as sold online and at Just Local Foods.
Another recently completed project from CEO was developing a locally themed Monopoly-style board game called Eau Claire-opoly.