MPA candidate Andrea Sorkin (above) and team took first place in the social track of the 2010 entrepreneurship invitational with a business plan for Pi, a line of gluten-free baked goods. Photo of Sorkin by Jerry Speier

Now in its 11th year, the Baruch College Invitational Entrepreneurship Competition has inspired amazingly creative business plans. Over the years, student teams have devised plans for, among other things, an online gift registry, a healing yoga project, an Internet-based advertising network, and a food co-op. Many plans have developed into bona fide businesses.

Of course, not all the business plans become success stories. Entrepreneurship entails risk and the ability to improvise, re-create, and adapt. This is part of its continuing allure. In fact, academic programs in entrepreneurship have mushroomed across the country in recent years. Ed Rogoff, Lawrence N. Field Professor of Entrepreneurship and chair of the Department of Management, estimates that as many as 350 may now exist.

John Elliott, dean of the Zicklin School of Business, sees the vitality of Baruch’s entrepreneurship competition in a broader context, as an example of “the rise of competitions in virtually every business discipline.” Business schools across the country have embraced competitions as a means of gaining visibility. “If your team bests Harvard’s, it automatically gives you bragging rights,” he adds. Moreover, many competitions double as talent searches for their sponsors.

Like their peers elsewhere, Baruch students have shown unflagging enthusiasm for competitions and have brought top honors home from many. “Enhancing formal classroom studies with the adrenaline rush of a ‘real-world’ business competition,” says Elliott, “has yielded many rewards for students and colleges alike.”