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SPC students mean business
College hosts third annual Elevator Pitch competition
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The winners of the Entrepreneurship competition at St. Petersburg College in Seminole, from left, Chelsea Gibson, Marie Rogers, Yvette Collins and Stephanie Addis with her daughter, Emilie Hartley.
Students who are also budding entrepreneurs at St. Petersburg College’s Seminole Campus got the chance of their dreams at the school’s third annual Business Plan and Elevator Pitch competition on April 18.

Those who participated pitched their business ideas to four judges – all with their own success in the business world – who selected the ideas most likely to succeed.

The Elevator Pitch is a common phrase in the business community. A person who has an idea for a new business or product might get the chance to pitch it to a prospective investor quickly and succinctly, in the time it might take on a short elevator ride.

There was $10,000 in prizes at stake for the students who planned to actually take their ideas and try, in real life, to make them work once they graduated.

The overall winner of the Business Plan competition and $5,000 was student Yvette Collins with her “Boujee Foot Candy” presentation.

Collins developed the brand “Boujee Foot Candy”, essentially shoe art, and showed the judges flat-soled shoes kept on with string or ribbon and accessorized with buckles or other decorative pieces. She said the shoe, which cost less than $5 to make, would wholesale for $22 and retail for $42. Each shoe would come with one string and one accessory, but the secret to making money, she said, was that whoever buys the shoes would want more than one set of strings and accessories.

When the male judges occasionally questioned her about her business plan’s reliance on other people’s buying habits, Collins had a stock answer: “You’re not a woman,” she said.

Collins said the nonathletic shoe industry is worth more than $200 billion a year. Her niche in that industry would target bigger sizes and that comes from personal experience.

“I wear a woman’s size 13,” she said. “Because of it, I have nothing but trouble trying to find shoes that fit me.”

The second-place winner in the Business Plan competition, who received $2,500, was Chelsea Gibson, a transfer student from Ohio. Her proposal was entitled “The Kinder Choice.” Gibson’s plan is to open a medical marijuana dispensary in her hometown in Ohio.

Gibson said that by November, Ohio will have legalized the use of medical marijuana and she wants to be able to provide the users of the drug a safe and comfortable place to fill their prescriptions and to use the marijuana.

Growing marijuana organically would allow her and her partners to stand apart from other growers, who she said would use chemicals in the process of growing vast amounts of the plant. She said quality, not quantity, would give her an edge and would provide her with a better argument when appearing before the Ohio government to request one of the 100 licenses that will be available.

Gibson said she is looking for $1.5 million from investors to start up the business. That prompted one judge to remind her that while Ohio has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, the federal government has not and at any time could swoop in and close her down.

“That’s why we need so much money up front,” said Gibson. “We are going to need a sizeable legal fund to fight such a thing if it ever happened.”

In the Elevator Pitch competition, Marie Rogers won first place and a $1,000 prize. Her concept, “Peace of Hair,” helps parents prevent head lice in their children before they become an issue.

“From six to 12 million children in the U.S. have head lice every year,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the treatment for lice comes after they have infected a child. There is very little prevention.”

Rogers’ proposal involves using felt and medicinal oils that would prevent the lice from infecting the child. The substance would be put on everyday things children would use, such as hair clips or scarves, and, peel-and-stick strips will be available for inside sports helmets. She likened it to a flea collar that dogs wear.

“The product is discreet,” she said.

She would also market her product through the schools, the YMCA, the Department of Children and Families, and pediatricians’ offices.

In second place in the Elevator Pitch competition and winner of $500 was Stephanie Addis, who proposed “Fit Snap,” an app that would instantly translate what is on a menu in a restaurant into what is or isn’t a healthy choice.

“Everything available now means we have to take each ingredient in food and figure it out for ourselves,” she said. “Who has time for that? I’m a single mom and I sure don’t.”

Addis told the judges she would market the product through restaurants by getting them to sign on, then health-conscious people would know they could go to that restaurant with their smart phones, scan the menu, and get the information they needed right then and there.

She said the app would cost 99 cents to download and she would require $300,000 from investors to start the business.

At the end of the competition Dr. James Olliver, the provost of the Seminole Campus, said work toward the evening began last fall.

“Back then we had 90 applications, then it got whittled down to a dozen,” he said. “Then we ended up with what you saw here tonight. The business plans are very detailed while the elevator pitches were more at the conceptual stage.”
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