Student Startups in Spolight at CEC Contest

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On Thursday, April 30th, the St. Petersburg College community, local business leaders, and members of the city of Seminole government came out to support Pinellas county’s future business leaders at the CEO Entrepreneurship club’s fifth annual business plan and elevator pitch competition.

Six students competed for ten thousand dollars in prize money for use as seed money to start their  new businesses. The elevator pitch category featured Benjamin Woods, David Thut, and Michael Ganote. In the business plan competition, Rebecca Rodriquez, Nykko Ford, and Brett Berner were going in front of the sharks. Four students were chosen for special recognition awards, and this year’s competition featured a special people’s choice award. The judges were Tonya Elmore of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Dr. Cynthia Johnson of the Pinellas County Economic Development Center, Mark Swanson of Bright House Networks, and Chuck Papageorgiou of International Screening Solutions and Ideasphere. Professor Mark Panuthos emceed the event.

The contest represented more than a year of hard work on the part of the contestants. Research, networking, asking for help from mentors, and polishing their pitches. Each elevator pitch contestant had three minutes to present, and then fielded questions from the judges for three to five minutes. Competitors at the business plan level get eight minutes to present, and also answered questions from the judges for three to five minutes. The special recognition awards were given while the judges deliberated.

Kathleen Loney, Luz Perry, Quentin Cumings and Kira Gilson won special recognition awards. Gilson won the award for a concept that embraces three concepts, people, planet, and profit. Seminole campus provost Dr. James Olliver was also recognized for his twenty years of service to St. Petersburg College, his support of the entrepreneurship program, and his intrapreneurship at the college. Dr. Olliver is the founding provost of Seminole campus, see our profile of him here.

In the elevator pitch competition, Michael Ganote and David Thut received first and second place. David Thut pitched his plan to provide organic vegetables to area restaurants, see his full pitch here. Practice paid off for Ganote, who practiced his pitch at the CEO Entrepreneurship club on Seminole campus. His company Elite Interviews will provide training to area employers in spotting deception in job applicants.

In the business plan competition, Nykko Ford won second place with his marketing company for small to medium sized businesses. Click here to watch his pitch to the judges. Rebecca Rodriquez not only won the business plan competition, she received the people’s choice award too! Rodriquez wants to provide a better fitting line of professional clothing for women. After the ceremony, contestants and guests retired to the UP atrium for a catered dinner from Pipos Cuban Café on Bay Pines.

See video from the event on our YouTube playlist. The 5th annual elevator pitch and business competition was covered live on The Sandbox News events Twitter, follow us for the latest from on campus and around Tampa Bay.

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