Area high school students pitch business ideas to local pros
Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.
Caitlin Kennedy and Emily Marsh stood in front of a panel of experienced businesspeople and pitched their baking business.
The two Buchholz High School juniors hoped the judges would approve them for the Growing Entrepreneurs program and a $500 grant to invest in A Touch of Sweetness.
Kennedy and Marsh's presentation was part of an event Wednesday in which Gainesville area high school students tried to sell their businesses as part of the second Growing Entrepreneurs Pitch Night while learning from some successful start-ups. The program is sponsored by Energent Ventures and Santa Fe College.
Co-sponsor David Whitney said that after the pitch night, selected budding businesspeople would get a chance to learn how to make their businesses successful.
"We don't change their ideas," he said. "We give them an opportunity to turn the ideas into a sustainable business."
Kennedy and Marsh's business is already thriving. They sell brownies, cookies and other tasty confections to their classmates, Kennedy said.
"When you're trying to improve a business you have, you want to do anything you can to better yourself," she said. "Why wouldn't we do this?"
Lisa Marsh said her daughter donates profits from selling her German chocolate crinkle cookies to aid teen mothers at her school.
"She gives back to people who don't have the same opportunities as she has," Lisa Marsh said.
Kennedy and Emily Marsh hoped to use the seed money to attend cake decorating classes and buy equipment.
"We didn't start with the idea that every month we're going to have hundreds of dollars," Kennedy said. "It just developed."
Dorrie Hipschman, executive director of the Cade Museum Foundation and a judge, said the girls were missing a key element from their presentation.
"You should bring samples," she said. "If it's as wonderful as you describe, you're 90 percent of the way to sales."
Other businesses included an airsoft modification company, a plumbing business and a counseling service for young women.
Dorothy Strickland entered her company, Passion for People Counseling Center.
"It doesn't matter about the pay or the money," she said. "It's about reaching out to the young women. I really want them to see that it's more than just you that have gone through experiences like this."
Randy Scott, a local serial entrepreneur, said he was awed by Strickland.
"This seems more like a calling for you than a business opportunity. That's probably better," he said. "You're going to be very successful."
Judges commented on poise, personality and profit margins. They asked Union County High student Lindsey Saunders about the research behind her methodology to increase reading comprehension.
Saunders said it was a natural transition from a science fair project. She's currently looking for computer engineers to create the software for her "Phrase-Read-Succeed" business.
Lamonteria Johnson, a junior at PACE Center for Girls, peppered the judges with questions about their own struggles growing a business.
"I could have done better, but I took heed to what they said," she said.
The students will be notified later this week if they made it into the Growing Entrepreneurs class, but Emily Marsh said that will have to wait. "Blueberry muffins tonight," she said.