Purpose behind the competition

Those involved in the the Biola Startup Competition reveal the bliss and battles of last year.


Melissa Hedrick/THE CHIMES [file]

Jessica Goddard, Writer

When senior computer science major Matthew Lemieux first entered Biola’s campus as a freshman, he never expected to enjoy the opportunity of the Biola Startup Competition, much less win it.

A platform to create something

“The Biola Startup Competition gave me a platform to create something,” Lemieux said. “It was one of the best times I’ve had at Biola.”

As the Biola Startup Competition begins its second year running, the directors and last year’s competitors discuss their experiences with the opportunity.

The competition, meant to promote Christian entrepreneurship, brings together idealistic students and alumni who are willing to work diligently and learn. In order to qualify, the participants need to include a meaningful Christian theme in their businesses. However, the theme must be deeper than simply inserting a Bible verse, according to David Bourgeois, one of the business faculty on the competition’s steering committee.

The competition organizers bring business professionals in, including Jessica Rey from Rey’s Swimwear, to mentor the participants during the year as they reform and improve their business plans.

The challenge of balancing

As a founding member, Bourgeois hopes it turns Biola into a center for Christian entrepreneurship. The yearlong event teaches participants not only how to run a business on a scanty budget but also teaches them how to integrate their faith into their business plans.

“[The competition] gave a place for Christian business people to see God move in a way they understood,” said Bourgeois.

Lemieux, who won first place along with alumni Kayla Sutherland and Sean Harrington, saw God move in his own life during the competition. Lemieux had always thought one could not do full-time ministry unless one fulfilled the role of a pastor or missionary. However, during the competition, he realized God uses entrepreneurship to honor himself. He explained from the first time he heard of the competition, he knew he wanted to enter it.

“For me, it was more about who I’m gonna do it with, rather than am I going to do it,” Lemieux said.

Before Lemieux came to Biola, he worked in the computer science industry; yet, he felt as if God wanted him to come to Biola and pursue a computer science degree. For two years, he kept wondering why God had brought him to Biola, and finally God showed him the purpose of his attendance through the startup competition.

The competition challenges students who participate to balance both classes and the work involved in starting a business.

“The pressure, especially since it was my senior year, was  just balancing all of it,” Sutherland said. “In a way, it’s like adding another class.”

She also compared it to the feeling of living a double life, but while it proves quite difficult, the contestants agree they enjoyed it because they could do what they love.

“Really, it doesn’t feel like work,” Lemieux said. “We are creating. It’s almost like an art.”

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