The Mercer Innovation Center is looking for aspiring entrepreneurs with The Next Big Idea and will award $9,000 in prizes to students with the best business pitches this April.

The Next Big Idea competition is open to Mercer undergraduate students, who may enter as individuals or teams of up to five people. Each individual or team may submit one idea, and each individual may participate on only one team.

Entrants are encouraged to seek the involvement of faculty, alumni, staff, fellow students and members of the local business community to provide feedback on the idea and on the deliverables.

“The Next Big Idea pitch competition meets a primary goal of the Mercer Innovation Center, which is to inspire a spirit of entrepreneurship among our students,” said Dr. Briana Stenard, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship in Mercer’s Stetson School of Business and Economics.

“We are excited to help our students think innovatively and nurture their ideas. We are looking forward to the development of many new entrepreneurial ventures from this competition.”

Students may register by submitting their names and business ideas from Jan. 11-29.

Dr. Stenard will lead information sessions on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. in the Mercer Innovation Center.

Experts in the local business community will serve as mentors to the teams and lead optional workshops on Feb. 13 on “Ideas and Customers,” Feb. 20 on “Business Model and Capital,” and Feb. 27 on “Pitch Practice.” Each workshop will take place from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in the Mercer Innovation Center.

Submissions must include a two-minute video pitch and a one-page business canvas, due on March 14. Finalists will be announced on March 28, and on April 16 at 1 p.m., they will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. The final competition, held in the Mercer Innovation Center, will be open to the entire University community to watch and support the student entrepreneurs.

The first-place team will be awarded $6,000, with $2,500 for second place, and a $500 Bear’s Choice Award for the video receiving the most votes from Mercer students and faculty.

For more information on The Next Big Idea competition, email nextbigidea@mercer.edu or Dr. Stenard at stenard_bs@mercer.edu.