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UNG center issues "pitch challenge" to students and community

StartItUp preview 2017
Connor Ford, co-founder of Spirit, speaks at the 2016 StartItUp Conference. This year, the StartItUp Challenge will lead up to the 2017 StartItUp Conference.

The newly renamed Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a unit of the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG), will hold the StartItUp Pitch Challenge this summer to help new businesses take flight.

The challenge, which calls for competitors to pitch their ideas for a new business, is open to UNG students, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as entrepreneurs within Lumpkin, Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Gilmer, and Fannin counties. The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is partnering with MDD Holdings Inc., to offer prizes to the top pitches.

"This challenge is an excellent way for university constituents and community members to capitalize on those great business ideas that sometimes struggle to get off the ground," said Dr. Ruben Boling, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "By doing this, we are also sowing directly into the economic future of our region, and ensuring that northeast Georgia remains a strong hub for small businesses."

A total of $17,500 in funding will be awarded to top finishers in the contest, with the top contestant receiving $10,000 to support a business venture. Second place will receive $5,000, and third place will receive $2,500.

The contest is currently accepting applications, which are due by May 15. To submit an application and learn more about the contest, visit: https://ung.edu/center-entrepreneurship-innovation/startitup-challenge/index.php.

"After I graduated in August 2016, I wanted to stay in the area and help address what I saw as a lack of economic growth," said Rajpal Sagoo, president of MDD Holdings and UNG alumnus. MDD Holdings serves small businesses and connects entrepreneurs with investors. "Students so often come up with great ideas while they are in college, but either can't or don't follow through on them. This challenge looked like a perfect opportunity to harness these ideas and stimulate economic growth in the area by showing others that they should be investing in this region."

The pitch challenge will run from May 22 through late September, and will culminate on Sept. 27 with the championship round; the end of the pitch challenge will be followed the next day with the beginning of the StartItUp Conference, which brings together experienced entrepreneurs, college and high school students, faculty, staff, and community entrepreneurs in an effort to share knowledge, experiences and a passion for startups and entrepreneurship.

On March 22, the Center for the Future of North Georgia became the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, marking a shift in the center's priority to directly support students, small businesses and their owners in the region through unique initiatives and programming designed to spark and sustain the entrepreneurial spirit.

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