By: Nick Santangelo

College is a time for trying new things. For Alexa Gingerich—who’s graduating from the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) this month—that meant trying vegetarianism and even veganism. Unfortunately, some health complications caused her to abandon that lifestyle, but her stab at a meat-free diet led her to try something else she’d never done before.

An Italian major, Gingerich applied to and became a finalist in Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute’s 21st annual Innovative Idea Competition. The competition is open to all Temple students and alumni and awards $7,500 in cash prizes after finalists pitch their ideas before a panel of live investors and entrepreneurs. Although she didn’t win, Gingerich made the final cut of 12 students out of an original pool of 125 submissions.

“I was really nervous. I never gave a presentation before like that,” says Gingerich. “It was definitely very nerve-racking but also very exciting to get that sort of experience. It's something I'd like to do again because I think if you're going to be a leader or entrepreneur, you should definitely have the skills to speak in front of a lot of people.”

Inspired by her flirtation with vegetarianism, Gingerich’s idea was to create a website she describes as an “organic oasis.” Site visitors would gain info on how to eat healthier not just for themselves but also for the planet. Even after returning to eating meat, Gingerich wanted to continue responsible consumption, and she wanted others to help foster sustainability too.

“I wanted to continue to do those sorts of things, but kind of implement them in a meat-eating lifestyle, which, if you were me and you're vegetarian, you'd be like, ‘What are you talking about?’ 

“But there are ways to do it and still benefit the planet and your health, so that's kind of why I made this idea. I think there's a lot of people who feel the same way, and who really like that sort of lifestyle but just can't live up to it, whether it be for financial reasons or they can't stop eating meat.”

The competition was fierce, with Gingerich facing off against a number of business-trained students from Temple’s Fox School of Business. She was CLA’s lone entrant out of all 125 submissions. In the future, she hopes more CLA students will join the competition. 

Many of the ideas from Fox students were a bit too business-y for Gingerich’s tastes. CLA students, however, can bring their broad worldviews to competitions like this and push ideas that won’t just be financially successful but will also have palpable benefits for communities and the planet.

if you're going to be a leader or entrepreneur, you should definitely have the skills to speak in front of a lot of people

And what’s the worst that could happen to a CLA student who applies? “I don’t know. Nothing,” says Gingerich with a laugh. The best thing is their idea is approved and they win the money. But even though she came up short on that end, Gingerich still values the experience she gained in creating a business plan and making a pitch.  

She admits that doing so was “kind of intimidating” when a bunch of students who “all know their business stuff” were going up against her. But Gingerich felt like she eventually able to “catch up with them.”

 Plus she didn’t come in completely devoid of business experience. Gingerich has a social media internship for Roots Tribe Yoga under her belt. The organization teaches yoga for community development to kids around the world. And even though it’s a nonprofit, successfully running social media for any organization still requires a certain level of business savvy.

With graduation now here, Gingerich now has to start thinking about applying some of the skills learned through that internship and the Innovative Idea Competition when she’s out job hunting. But she still wants to start on her idea at some point and wants future students to know they shouldn’t be afraid to give their own ideas a try.

After all, one of them just might be a $7,500 idea that enriches the planet as much as it does the idea’s creator.

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