Mercer University to host SoCon Entrepreneurship Challenge

The inside of the Mercer Innovation Center
Mercer Innovation Center

Mercer University Stetson-Hatcher School of Business will host the second annual SoCon Entrepreneurship Challenge at the Mercer Innovation Center’s Smisson Complex on the Macon campus on March 31 and April 1. 

The SoCon Entrepreneurship Challenge, a product of the Southern Conference’s Academic Exchange program, is a pitch competition designed to showcase students with an idea for an innovative business or nonprofit organization. The competition features two tracks — for-profit and nonprofit.

This year, seven SoCon institutions will participate, with a team of one to four students competing in each track. The selection process for the teams is determined by each individual school. In addition to Mercer, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, The Citadel, Samford University, Virginia Military Institute, Western Carolina University and Wofford College will be participating in the challenge.

“We are thrilled to be hosting the SoCon Entrepreneurship Challenge at Mercer this year,” said Dr. Briana Stenard, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship. “At Mercer, we believe in encouraging entrepreneurship education and supporting student businesses, and this competition is right in line with that mission. We look forward to seeing our Mercer student teams present alongside the other entrepreneurial teams in the SoCon.”

The Entrepreneurship Challenge, held for the first time in 2022, will feature a semifinal pitch round with all 14 teams presenting their ideas on March 31. Top professionals from the for-profit and nonprofit industries will serve as judges and decide which teams move on to the final pitch competition round on April 1, which will take place from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and is open to the public. The teams will be scored on product/service, opportunity, target market, financial feasibility and presentation, and the winning team from each track will be awarded $6,000.

Participants will also have the chance to learn from other schools, entrepreneurs and professionals during workshops and activities when they are not competing.

School of Business Dean Dr. Julie Petherbridge will serve as the host for the competition, and Dr. Stenard and Dr. Marko Horn, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship, will serve as faculty advisers. 

In the inaugural competition in 2022, hosted by The Citadel, Mercer students Olivia Korta, Emma Drash, Aaryanna Mercer and Martha Corinn won first place in the nonprofit division for their brand inspired by the Mercer On Mission program in Rwanda that benefits Rwandan tailors. Representing Mercer this year are students Kernen Frey, Adrianna Koerber and Mason Mourning in the nonprofit category for Traffick Jam and Connor Ferguson in the for-profit category for Daedalus UAS.

About the School of Business 

Established in 1984, Mercer’s School of Business is named for Eugene W. Stetson, a 1901 Mercer graduate and business pioneer who leveraged the first major buyout in corporate history, and his grandson Robert F. (Bob) Hatcher, a Macon businessman, longtime supporter, trustee and former board chair for the University. Over the past 80 years, Mercer has granted over 12,000 business degrees, and many of its graduates hold senior leadership positions in companies around the world. Mercer’s business school delivers career-focused business education in order to develop innovative leaders who are responsible global citizens. It holds accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which places it among the top five percent of all top business schools worldwide. Mercer’s business school has been recognized by The Princeton Review for “Greatest Opportunity for Minority Students” and “Greatest Opportunity for Women” as well as being one of its “Best Business Schools.” In addition, it has been recognized among the “Top 15 Schools in the Nation for Marketing and Accounting.” The School offers the following programs: Atlanta (Evening and Online BBA, Full-Time (Day) MBA, Evening MBA, Online MBA, Master of Accountancy, M.S. in Business Analytics), Macon (Traditional BBA, Evening MBA, Health Care MBA, and Innovation MBA), Henry County (Evening BBA). For more information, visit

About the Mercer Innovation Center

The Mercer Innovation Center is an effort by Mercer University, along with community partners such as the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, Birch Communications, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Dr. Hugh F. Smisson III, to advance a culture of innovation and develop a thriving community of entrepreneurs, with a focus on utilizing technology to foster economic growth, create 21st century jobs and attract and retain talent. The Center is an institutional effort – led by the Stetson School of Business and Economics – that crosses academic disciplines and geographic boundaries to draw from all of the University’s colleges, schools, departments and operating units. Community memberships are available, as the Center’s activities and resources are intended to be available to Mercer students and non-students alike.

Andrea Honaker is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She writes feature stories for The Den and creates and maintains content for primary University web pages. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.