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April 15: Contest offers cash prizes for students with innovative business ideas

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Apr 04, 2019

College of Lake County students will present their creative, leading-edge ideas for products or services in CLC’s fourth annual Big Idea contest and awards ceremony from 7-9 p.m. Monday, April 15 in Room A013 at the Grayslake Campus. The public is welcome to attend.

The competition is designed to foster entrepreneurship, innovation and partnership with local businesses, according to Patty Clark, CLC business professor and main organizer of the event. In a format similar to ABC-TV’s popular “Shark Tank” program, the students will pitch their ideas to a panel of five judges with entrepreneurial expertise. The locally-based panel includes a patent attorney and members of the college’s business administration advisory committee. Other panelists include a representative from The Hub, an entrepreneurial support program of the nonprofit Greater Waukegan Development Coalition, and a representative from CLC’s Small Business Development Center. Photo of 2018 winners of Big Idea contest

Students were given a deadline of March 17 to submit a two- to three-minute video summarizing their idea to solve a problem, harness an opportunity or change the world. No financials or business plans were required. From the submissions, the $1,000 grand prize will be awarded to the first-place winner, with $500 for second place and $250 for the third-place finisher.

Photo (from left): The top finishers in CLC's 2018 Big Idea contest included: Edith Perez (third place; networked, portable tracking devices), Felix Enriquez (first place; canvas, customizable cell-phone case) and Erik Herrera (second place; concrete sanding device).

“We are excited about the range of new products, services and social entrepreneurship ideas this year. It shows how creative CLC students are,” said Clark, noting that entries have come from students majoring in several fields, including computer science, engineering, business, communications and economics. “We are also excited this year to be able to collaborate on Big Idea with sponsor Suzy's Swirl Company (a Lake Bluff-based frozen yogurt/treat shop), students from our Entrepreneurship (BUS 131) course, our student Business Club and CLC’s Baxter Innovation Lab.”  

Edith Perez, a digital media and design major who took third place in last year’s competition, said the experience helped her polish her writing and presentation skills. Perez proposed a security system composed of networked, portable tracking devices that use cellular and GPS satellites to provide accurate location information during emergencies.

Perez, who has since been focusing on her courses and a 2019 CLC graduation rather than refining her idea, said she is nevertheless grateful for the college promoting entrepreneurship. “All the innovations that improve and positively impact our lives start with a person thinking about a solution to address a problem,” said Perez, a Lake Villa resident. “I’m happy that CLC has the Big Idea competition to encourage entrepreneurship while we’re still in school. It provides an alternative platform for students to grow their business ideas and build their confidence as well as  communication skills, all of  which are valuable when we join the workforce.”

For more information on the Big Idea competition, visit For details on CLC’s Small Business Development & International Trade Center, visit

Registration is now open for Summer Session, which offers two start dates: May 21 and June 10; and for Fall Semester, which begins Aug. 19. To view course offerings and learn how to become a CLC student, visit or


About College of Lake County:

College of Lake County is an innovative community college in Lake County, Ill. that transforms lives with its variety of accessible, quality education options. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, College of Lake County provides affordable options in a state-of-the-art setting close to home. A large student network, with small class sizes, provides advantages to our students on a career-related program or a path toward a transfer degree. We’re proud to serve the diverse needs of our community and student body. Connect to your future today at College of Lake County.