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2017 University News

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2017 University News

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Entrepreneurs Pitch Ideas at WCU's "Shark Tank"

From high school and college students to professionals, people who dream of launching their own products or starting their own businesses are competing in the University's fifth annual Business Idea Competition. Of the 114 total entries submitted by 143 individuals and teams, 17 were selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of creative professionals on Wednesday, April 19.

The Edwin Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center, which organizes the Business Idea Pitch competition, has historically seen a vast array of ideas submitted, reports Monica Zimmerman, the director of the center and a professor of management. She says this event is often a springboard for aspiring entrepreneurs, where their ideas are boosted by the atmosphere of creativity, idea generation, and entrepreneurship that the competition fosters.

This year, the submissions ranged from tech, business-to-business, medical, and the service-based industry. Students of various ages make up the majority of the participants: 19% are West Chester Area School District high school students; 36% WCU undergraduates; 32% WCU graduate students/alumni; and 13% professionals. Zimmerman notes that any participants whose ideas were not selected as finalists are "encouraged to refine their ideas and resubmit in the future. We always keep our doors open to students who participate in our events."

WCU alumnus Chris Heivly '82 (geography) is the 2016-17 entrepreneur-in-residence for the Cottrell Center and will be one of the judges at the finals on April 19. Heivly, a founder of MapQuest, prides himself on sniffing out good ideas, noting, "Either I see a problem and I want to fix it or I see an opportunity and I want to fill that void." He is currently a managing director of The Startup Factory, the largest seed investment firm in the Southeast.

Last year's winner of the Business Idea Pitch, Colleen McCloskey, took her idea all the way to the Regional Angel Expo Contest. She obtained a $25,000 equity investment from the Keiretsu Forum for her Elite Pureed Meals company, which creates visually appealing, tasty, nutritious pureed meals for people who are unable to, or have trouble swallowing solid food. The Angel Expo is the Keiretsu Forum's signature event, linking entrepreneurs with investors.

The Cottrell Center promotes entrepreneurial literacy across the University and the West Chester region by hosting workshops, activities, and guest speakers, as well as mentoring entrepreneurs. The center is an educational partner of the Keiretsu Forum, which is the world's largest angel network.

The Business Idea Pitch finals will be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. in the new College of Business and Public Management building on the corner of Sharpless and South Church streets on the University's main campus. Each finalist will be given seven minutes to present and five minutes for questions. Grand prize is $3,000 and the opportunity to present at the Keiretsu Forum Angel Capital Expo in October.

The pitch sessions are free and open to the public (a dinner at 6:30 p.m. is only for finalists, judges, and staff).

Congratulations to the WCU student semi-finalists:

WCU Undergraduate Students

Treasure Hunt – Chris Thompson
EZ-Find Tape – Jordan Muir
Major Scoreboard – Justin Horrocks
Menu Connection – Kevin Durkin

WCU Graduate Students & WCU Alumni
thenamexchange – Jolie DeFeis
G. J. Avvento Technical Services LLC – Gennaro Avvento
Virtual Individual Private Doc – Geoffrey Chan
EVA's - Tech – Raymond Bonnett
Young Writer's Draft – Eric Barnes

Learn more about the Business Idea Competition.
Learn more about the Cottrell Center.
Learn more about Entrepreneur-in-Residence Chris Heivly.