Resource:How to run an eight week Ultimate Trader Challenge

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This article provides instructions and tips on how to implement an eight week Ultimate Trader Challenge on your campus. The Ultimate Trader Challenge drew inspiration from Kyle MacDonald and his, One Red Paper Clip story. Kyle became famous after he managed to make a series of up trades that led him from starting with a small red paper clip to his final trade of a house. This entrepreneurial idea of making smart trades can be implemented and modified to fit a college campus. The basic idea behind it is to have students start with a small object, like a pen, and after 8 weeks, see which student was able to make the best trades. Holding a challenge of this sort on your own campus helps build a community and is also a great marketing opportunity.

Get Organized

The first step to take is getting organized! Before asking for sponsors or promoting the event, you need to figure out how an event like this will be implemented on your campus. Make a realistic prediction for how many students might attend an event like this. Have a conservative goal and a stretch goal. Think about what incentives you will offer to the students who make the best trades, and from whom you will receive starting items and prizes.


The key to this event is marketing it extremely well, especially during sign-up. The more participants you have, the more people will be enticed. Start getting people excited early on. Host a big kick-off party that gives people a reason to come. Nothing attracts college students faster than free pizza or t-shirts. Try and spread the word on as many different platforms as possible - be it social media, word of mouth or professors preaching to their classes. This is the most important part for the success of this event. By attracting large numbers of participants, it will create a competitive environment and get students really excited.

Finding Funding

Finding funding can be a very difficult part of the process. Start on your campus to see if there is money for hosting student-led events. Next, start contacting local companies, but don't underestimate what reaching out to a larger organization can do. In the past, schools hosting these sort of events have been sucsseful in reaching out to companies like eBay because of the similarities to the event and the services eBay provides. If money is hard to find, try and get companies to donate things like pizza or prizes. 

Picking a Date

Pick a time to run the event that is a more mellow time of year on your campus and convenient for attendees. Also try to make it a time that can easily be repeated each year or semester. This will help with both turn out and making it a sustainable event that will continue on in future years. 


As far as how to run the actual event, it is flexible depending on what will work best for your campus. Previously, it has shown success over an 8-week period, with weekly meet-ups to see everyones accomplishments. Finding a way to offer weekly prizes for the best trades will give incentive for participants to make as much progress as possible each week. Also, create different categories of prizes; for example most interesting trade, most bizarre trade, etc. Lastly, have a final prize for whom ever earns 'best trade.' Make sure to provide students with advice on how to make good trades. In the past, winners have had great success through recources like craigslist. The underlying key for sucess in hosting this type of event is through communication and encouragement for participants to reach out to as many people as possible during the 8-week period.

Media Capture

Documenting the entire experience is a very important aspect of the Ultimate Trader Challenge. Create a Facebook page where students can post pictures and videos of trades made. This will build competition and show less engaged students the challenging fun they are missing out on. This is also helpful for your resume when trying to show a future company or program what you have accomplished. 


To make any event sustainable is always the hardest part. Try to associate this event with a department at your university, it will help significantly. Also try to associate the challenge with a club, or make the event a club itsself. Passing on responsibility to others will help keep it alive after you graduate. In general, the more groups you can get involved with the event the better the chance of it happening again. 

Successes Stories

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A very good example where the Ultimate Trader Challenge was implemented successfully was at Penn State by UI Fellow John Oliver.  He was able to get over 100 students participating in this event. Oliver's starting object was a recycled plastic pen. The winner of the event won a Ford F-250 pick-up truck! Here is a link to a documentary filmed about the event.