BU Student Wins State Entrepreneur Competition; Will Compete in Nationals
Graeme Eaglesham and the kids he serves are having a ball.
That’s because Eaglesham won the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Nebraska Chapter Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (EO GSEA) competition on Thursday, Jan. 9, and walked away with a $2,500 check that will go toward supporting Future Kids. Future Kids is a non-profit organization that provides affordable after-school soccer programs for youth in underserved communities.
Besides the big check he took home, the Bellevue University student also earned an all-expense paid trip to Silicon Valley, where he will compete in the U.S. EO competition on Feb. 10-11. Should he win in California, he will go on to South Africa for the EO global competition.
For the uninitiated, winning an EO competition is sort of a big deal. EO is a network of more than 14,000 like-minded entrepreneurs around the world. Founded in 1987 by a core group of young entrepreneurs, the organization enables business owners to network with and learn from one another. EO sponsors events, too, ranging from leadership development programs to community engagement activities to competitions designed to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. EO Nebraska has 95 members, primarily in Omaha and Lincoln.
“Most of our students have sacrificed a great deal to successfully pursue degrees, while often managing full-time work, family and community -obligations. This same drive is necessary for success as entrepreneurs.” – Dr. Jane Schaefer, Assistant Dean, College of Business
Eaglesham’s journey to become an entrepreneur started in earnest at his alma mater. He arrived from Maidens, Scotland in 2009, and quickly became a key player for the Bruins soccer squad. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Performance in 2015 and then completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Management in 2019. It was during pursuit of his second degree, in 2017, that Eaglesham took his passion and expertise in soccer and transformed it into Future Kids.
The Tom and Annie Pratt Entrepreneurial Award he received from the University helped Future Kids gain traction. “I received the Pratt Award in 2018 and it helped tremendously,” said Eaglesham. “The money we received helped with soccer equipment, transportation and computers – all of which made our school soccer program much better.”
Established by Tom and Annie Pratt, two longtime Bellevue University supporters and entrepreneurs themselves, the Pratt Entrepreneurial Award supports University students and recent alumni who dream of starting or expanding their own businesses. Applicants with winning proposals receive financial awards of up to $5,000, as well as one year of professional mentoring often from a faculty member.
Eaglesham worked with John Levy, Vice President of the Omaha-based William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, and credits Levy with helping to fuel the organization’s growth. Levy, however, said, Future Kids’ growth has been the result of increased funding secured by the organization. “Graeme is probably too modest to admit this,” said Levy, “but in the last 18 months, they have more than quadrupled their budget, including securing more than $75,000 in new grant dollars since June.”
“Graeme is a great example of how social entrepreneurship in the service of others can work and become a profitable, sustainable business,” said Dr. Jane Schaefer, Assistant Dean of the College of Business and chair of the Pratt Award selection committee. Dr. Schaefer has seen Future Kids, as well as several other entrepreneurs’ businesses succeed and grow, in part, thanks to the structure and support that the Pratt Award provides.
Today, Future Kids provides opportunities to more than 600 children across more than 50 schools throughout Omaha and Lincoln. Roughly 80% of Future Kids’ participants are on free or reduced lunch. “We are about to go statewide, into the smaller towns of Nebraska,” said Eaglesham, who impressed the EO judges with his plan to put Future Kids in 15 different states by 2021.
Eaglesham, understandably proud of what Future Kids has accomplished over the last two years, knows that no matter what happens in San Francisco next month, the kids and communities he serves are the real winners. “We see kids being impacted by not only developing soccer skills, but having fun,” said Eaglesham. “They’re staying active and understanding what it means to be part of a team.”