Sometimes even the best ideas need a little help getting off the ground.
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) FABricate entrepreneurship program was designed to do just that — to empower students to turn their great ideas into working businesses.
FABricate is an entrepreneurship competition and course for students who want to develop and implement ideas in a way that can help feed a growing population. Students develop personal and professional skills while refining their ideas for a new food product, agricultural technology, or environmental or agricultural business.
This year’s competition is open to UGA students from all backgrounds and colleges within the university. Individuals or teams of up to five UGA students can compete. Teams can include both undergraduate and masters-level students. Business plans must be submitted by Feb. 20, 2020 to qualify.
“The FABricate course and competition give our students the opportunity to develop innovative solutions for some of our greatest challenges in agriculture,” said Amanda Newquist, director of experiential learning for the CAES. “The course allows students to meet and learn from local entrepreneurs and innovators in an informal setting. They can ask questions and receive guidance from people who have already been through this process.”
This is the fourth year CAES has held the entrepreneurial competition. Keith Kelly, a CAES alumnus who is now an entrepreneur and farmer in Morgan County, has supported the program since its inception in 2017.
“It’s an awesome thing for kids to get engaged in,” Kelly said. “I think it's important for them to do it. (Entrepreneurship) is what America is built on. It offers a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to get started, to test their ideas and hopefully meet other business owners who can serve as mentors."
Herb Girls Athens, a two-woman team, won the 2018-19 FABricate competition with its signature product, a healthy coffee additive called Rally Coffee.
Eileen Schaffer, an agribusiness master’s degree student, and Amy Wright, a recent psychology graduate, formed Herb Girls as a passion-project. Then it turned into a business.
“We both have an herbalist background and we love to cook, so we would get together and cook with some foods and herbs," Schaffer said. "We started doing classes around town, and people enjoyed our workshops. So we decided we could turn it into a business.”
While both partners had an extensive background with herbs and nutrition, neither had a background in business outside of self-help books. That is where FABricate came into play.
“We were really interested in the mentorship component, just to have some good background and how to really tackle a business as a businesswoman, not just as someone who is trying to start a small business and struggle our way through,” Wright said. “We wanted to be smart and intentional and have a good plan behind the passion and the drive we already felt.”
The team said FABricate helped them look at their product from angles they had not before and showed them how to identify their ideal client base. They’ve since been able to expand the distribution of Rally Coffee.
“It has taken our business to the whole next level,” said Wright. “Without FABricate, we really wouldn’t be where we are today.”
This year the top prize for winning the competition has been raised from $2,500 to $10,000.
For more information about the program, visit https://www.caes.uga.edu/students/experiential-learning/fabricate.html .