One of the nation’s premier showcases for student talent has filled the Kansas City Convention Center this week with the Enactus United States National Exposition.
Over two days of competitive presentations, about 2,700 students representing about 100 colleges and universities have tried to convince judges that they have the best ideas for entrepreneurial projects that could lead to business innovation while also producing meaningful social impact.
In exchange for the hours of on-campus preparation, Enactus participants also got direct access to hirers at an exclusive career fair.
Hallmark Cards, Wal-Mart Stores, The Hershey Co., Bimbo Bakeries, Post Consumer Brands, Schwan’s Food, Robert Half, Synchrony Financial and Unilever were among employers who attended the Monday and Tuesday event, with some of them suggesting they were prepared to hire on the spot.
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“We’re finding that new college graduates are entering a healthy job market, but competition is fierce, with many entry-level professionals applying for the same job,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half. “The management and real-world work experience students acquire through Enactus provides a significant advantage.”
McDonald cited initiative, a focus on results, community contributions and project experience as assets that Enactus students bring to the table.
“These students are uniquely prepared for future success,” said David Hall, president of Hallmark Cards. “They are socially conscious, business savvy and embody the entrepreneurial spirit. That is a combination you don’t find in every college student, and that’s what makes them so attractive to a company like Hallmark.”
Enactus, formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise, is an organization that encourages university teams to devise “real-world” projects, always with the eye of improving livelihoods. Each team had to prepare multimedia presentations that were evaluated by judging panels of business, social service and academic leaders.
The winners take home $10,000 in prize money and the chance to go on to the international competition, this year set for September in London.
On Tuesday night, the student team from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., was declared the winner and named the 2017 Enactus United States National Champion.
Local teams from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Kansas City Kansas Community College were among participants.
Visit KC estimated an economic impact of $2.6 million from the 2017 convention. Enactus has committed to return to Kansas City for its 2018 and 2019 expositions.
The organization had held its national event in Kansas City from 1999 through 2006 and again in 2012-2013.