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Central Washington University

CWU Helps Today’s Prep Students Become Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Many Faces of Entrepreneurship logoOn Friday, February 28, at the Yakima Convention Center, about 370 high school students will receive hands-on training on how to become entrepreneurs during the 2020 “Many Faces of Entrepreneurship” tournament. Entrepreneurs serve a vital role in the world economy by coming up with innovations that improve living standards and creating novel advances to aid established businesses.

This is the fifth year of the Yakima program, presented by CWU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I4IE). The institute coordinates and conducts the annual, daylong event to encourage today’s students to learn how to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

Prep students from Eisenhower, East Valley (Spokane), Grandview, Wapato, Wahluke, and West Valley (Yakima) high schools will discover how to create, start, and successfully operate an entrepreneurial venture.

“The tournament is open to all students,” said Bill Provaznik, I4IE director, who also serves as chair of the CWU College of Business (CB) Department of Management. “In years past, we’ve seen lots of participation from students who are interested in business, design, and project management.”

The competition involves student teams, assembled from among the various high schools with the goal of helping them learn about and develop entrepreneurial skills, including business concepts, teamwork, marketing, and responding to competition.

“Eventually, these skills will help them regardless of what they decide on for their careers,” Provaznik said.

The MFE workshop involves originating pet-containment units for about two-dozen “celebrity” pet owners, portrayed by CWU students.

“The high school teams will need to figure out what these owners’ needs are for their pets, what they could reasonably charge for their products, and then develop and present their ideas for containment unit for their clients,” Provaznik explained.

Each team will have administrators, designers, marketers, purchasers, researchers, and cross-function coordinators. Half of each student team will comprise the marketing unit. The other half will be designers.

The teams will be allotted a budget and can purchase items for their prototypes, through the I4IE stocked “Acme Supply Store,” stocked with dollar-store items and materials left from previous competitions. The teams have only 90 minutes to complete their work and submit a sample product for review.

“The biggest challenge for the high school kids, from our surveys, is just the time,” Provaznik pointed out. “It’s the fact that there are so many things that they could do and they have to choose which one they’re going to do, but also which ones they’re not going to do.”

In all, about 55 CWU students will also be involved, many of whom are enrolled in the CWU entrepreneurship program.

“They really enjoy working with the high school students and helping them learn about marketing and design, costing and finance, and in developing communication skills,” Provaznik added.

At the tournament’s conclusion, four finalists will present their ideas to a panel of Super Judges, who are noted professionals and educators who volunteer to help with the program. In Yakima, they will be Steve Townsend, who recently opened Hotel Windrow and the Basalt Restaurant in Ellensburg; Sandy Wheeler, an entrepreneur who has founded numerous businesses, including in cancer research and medical equipment; Wendy Cook, CWU management professor; and Rob Ogburn, associated director of CWU’s Supply Chain Management Institute.  

They will provide constructive criticism and feedback, and then present awards to students comprising the winning team.

MFE is supported by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation.

I4IE will present five MFE tournaments this year, which Provaznik points out is the most ever in one year. The final event will be at Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) State Business Leadership Conference in Spokane from April 8-11. Provaznik adds more than 2,000 students will attend the conference and participate in a series of MFE workshops.   

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

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