Sam Cowdery ESTEEM '20
The McCloskey New Venture Competition is easily the high-point for student entrepreneurship at Notre Dame. This year more than 180 teams entered for their chance to win prizes and to share their energy, passion, and bold ideas with the greater Notre Dame community and the world. What made this year particularly impressive was not only the record-breaking number of entrants, but that the McCloskey staff, sponsors, and semi-finalist teams all managed to pivot to an online venue in a matter of weeks in the wake of COVID-19. That, in and of itself, was a testament to the resilience of the fighting Irish spirit and I feel such a distinct honor to have had the chance to participate in such a unique experience during my one year at ND.
For students in the ESTEEM program, every experience definitely feels a little “once-in-a-lifetime,” but competing in McCloskey will especially stand out as one of the best opportunities to jump head-first into entrepreneurship and I am far from the only ESTEEM’er who would agree. In fact, this year alone, nearly one third of all the semi-finalist ventures in the competition had an ESTEEM student or alumni present on their team and four of them were prize winners! It seemed like such a long time ago that our different teams were working late at the IDEA Center to get one more edit onto our business plan or reach out to one more mentor for advice, but the chance to see so many familiar names pull through to the final stretch of the competition was truly a special moment to be an ESTEEM student.
For my own part, I would whole-heartedly recommend the McCloskey experience to all ESTEEM and Notre Dame students as a chance to develop valuable new skills, learn from incredible mentors and colleagues, and build something to celebrate and share with others. I personally had two of my ventures make it to semi-finals, which was incredible humbling but also a heck of a lot of work to manage in the build up to my final capstone defense. The weeks before the semi-final round felt like the busiest of the whole year, but in the end the work paid off, quite literally. Overall, despite the inherent stress of competition and the high demands it places on time and mental energy, being part of McCloskey adds more than just a new bullet to the resume, it brings the confidence that your ideas can have a real impact and I can’t imagine a better way to have closed off a year at the University of Notre Dame.
[Editor's note: A full list of 2020 McCloskey New Venture Competition winners can be found here. ESTEEM students and alumni on teams that received prizes were Allison Berding ESTEEM '20 for PWR Training/Level Development, Sam Cowdery ESTEEM '20 for Taxedo, Rian Mc Donnell ESTEEM '20 for FloWaste, and Christopher Cali ESTEEM '15 for Viewtique.]