WCU holds its version of “Shark Tank” for student entrepreneurs

Western Carolina University’s College of Business, along with the Corporation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and EPIC, a student initiative encouraging student entrepreneurship through Elevating Potential, Imagination and Collaboration, recently held a student pitch party.

The pitch party was similar to the TV show “Shark Tank,” as young entrepreneurs presented their ideas in front of a panel of judges and a live audience. In addition to being judged by members of the panel, the audience members were able to cast votes via text for their favorite. Seven student entrepreneur teams competed.

“EPIC was formed in fall of 2015 and our students have done a great job in organizing such a realistic platform for students pitching business ideas to a live audience and judges from industry,” said Yue Hillon, associate professor of management. “We had a very creative and diverse range of ideas, and all of the pitchers did a great job. Through faculty mentorship, student entrepreneurs researched and learned how to transform an idea into a business venture.”

First place and the audience choice award winner was Team Tipster, which consisted of Trinity Wiles, a freshman marketing and entrepreneurship major from Columbus, Ohio; Will Pearce, a sophomore from Cullowhee majoring in entrepreneurship; and Amanda Muse, a junior psychology and entrepreneurship major from Orlando, Florida. Their idea was to eliminate manual entering of credit card tip receipts with an automatic image capturing technology.

The second place winner was Paulene Cato, a junior from McLeansville majoring in entrepreneurship, whose pitch was a baby stroller that is attachable to wheelchairs for people with ambulatory disabilities. Third place went to sophomore Alex Barnet, a pre-veterinary medicine and entrepreneurship major from Fuquay-Varina, who pitched a for-profit veterinary and small animal rehabilitation clinic whose revenues would help fund a non-profit exotic bird rescue.

Others who competed were senior finance major Sertonus Harris and senior finance and accounting major Curtis Goodman Jr. pitching Shirts on the Fly; sophomore entrepreneurship major Brittany Job presenting Flavor Cakes; junior Elizabeth Sufrinko, finance and entrepreneurship major, pitching Digital Music Protection; and senior Johnny Vollmer, an entrepreneurship major whose idea was Hemp as a Renewable Energy.

The panel of judges were College of Business instructor Tara Mele; Darrel Parker, dean of the College of Business; Steve Baxley of Baxley’s Chocolates; Julie Painter of Visage Salon; Dyel Sigmon, vice president of Constructionjobs.com; and Tonya Snider, CEO of TenBiz.

EPIC plans to host a pitch party every semester with all WCU students invited to participate. For more information, contact Hillon at ycai@wcu.edu, or Wendy Cagle at wcagle@wcu.edu.