Fifth annual Draper Competition encourages undergraduate women entrepreneurs


Tyra Wu ‘19 Associate Editor

The annual Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs is designed to develop the skills that undergraduate women need to advance through the venture creation process. The competition consists of three rounds during which the competitors illustrate their understanding of a problem, demonstrate why the problem requires venture funding and show why their idea presents the best solution to the problem. Each team must have at least one team member who is also a female undergraduate.

The first prize for the winning team is a $10,000 cash prize and up to 3 full scholarships to Draper University. Second and third prize receive a $7,500 and $5,000 cash prize respectively. The fifth annual Draper Competition took place on Friday April 7. Katharina Geppert ’19 was inspired to enter Draper after taking an entrepreneurship class over J-term, where she met her teammates. While the team initially wanted to focus on mental health on campus, they eventually decided to focus on developing a web service to help people find the right size garments when shopping online.

“We realized that the drastic variation in sizes negatively affect the way people - women especially - see themselves and their bodies, and we wanted to fix that by providing transparency about sizing,” Geppert said. “After working on this project for a few weeks, all the team members realized that we were already really personally invested in our idea, and the Draper competition seemed like the perfect opportunity to figure out whether this idea could become a reality.”

In round one the teams must complete a written application including an executive summary and business model canvas. Once they have submitted the application a selection committee evaluates the written applications. The top teams will then advance to the next round of the competition. There, team participants showcase their ventures to judges in a trade show expo. From these teams, ten are selected as finalists who then give a 90 second pitch about their ventures to the judges.

For Geppert’s team, preparation for Draper involved several months of developing their idea in business workshops, discussing their progress with their faculty advisor and participating in conference calls with their alumna mentor. While it was a challenging process, it was also extremely rewarding in that Geppert and her teammates gained business experience and skills like writing a pitch, creating a website and infographs.

“The Draper competition was an excellent opportunity to spend some time working on an idea, whether it’s an already existing product or a scribble on a napkin,” Geppert said. “It doesn’t matter what stage the idea is at, the only thing that matters is if the idea has potential. Most importantly I gained three new friends who I would otherwise not have gotten to know this well, if it wasn’t for our shared investment in our project and all the time we spend working on it together.”

Most of all, Draper helps showcase the ideas that female undergraduate students from schools around the country have come up with. In addition to learning applicable business skills, participants come away with a sense of community.

“Hearing other people’s ideas and going through the experience of developing something out of nothing with other teams was really inspiring,” Geppert said. “It is amazing how many brilliant ideas came out of this competition. It reminded me once again of the great things Smithies are capable of, and it made me aware of how much the people on this campus care about making a positive change in this world and in the lives of others.”