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Students will compete for chance to take startup ideas to state event

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The innovateUNG Pitch Challenge is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Dining Hall Banquet Room on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

Students will pitch their business ideas at a student startup contest later this month, and the winner will advance to the statewide Georgia InVenture Prize competition set for April 1-2.

The second annual innovateUNG Pitch Challenge is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Dining Hall Banquet Room on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus.

"I expect this to be an increasingly competitive event," said Dr. Ruben Boling, director of UNG's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "We look forward to hearing our students share their product ideas."

Of the four teams who will compete for prize money and receive feedback from the business professionals serving as judges, two are from the Dahlonega Campus and two are from the Gainesville Campus. The teams are:

  • Inspirad Designs LLC
    • Team member: Matthew Byron
    • Idea: A customized piston for pneumatic forks on mountain bikes
  • Driven to Style
    • Team member: Jenna Libman, who was named Student Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in October.
    • Idea: A unique, fully online women's and juniors' secondhand clothing business
  • G-3 Takeout
    • Team members: Eric Ferguson, Jordan Mallak, Wrafi Rucker
    • Idea: A local food delivery service that not only delivers food but also combats drunk driving
  • OnMe
    • Team member: Gina Urbina Sanchez
    • Idea: A fashionable solution for various outfit malfunctions

Sanchez's idea grew from a personal problem she needed to solve. As a salsa dancer, it was hard for her to execute moves with her partner because her dress kept flying up and she had to push it back down with the hand her dance partner otherwise would have held to begin the next move. Sanchez, a senior pursuing a management degree with an entrepreneurship concentration, came up with a magnet that attaches to undershorts and the dress to hold the clothing in place. Since then, she has talked with people who believe it could also help hold ties and scarves in place.

Previously, the idea of launching a product intimidated Sanchez because of the large amount of money needed. But her classes and this competition are showing her the importance of creating a prototype and gaining feedback and buy-in from others before fully jumping in.

"It's a matter of creating a plan," Urbina Sanchez said. "It's a different way."

She said the tips and networking faculty member Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini-Piazza have given to her are invaluable.

Prizes include $2,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $500 for the crowd favorite. Teams will receive pitch coaching in the lead-up to Feb. 25, and the winner will get additional assistance ahead of the state competition.

Judges for the competition are:

  • Chris Colson: He is program director of innovation in the retail payments office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Colson has been granted two patents, with seven more pending. He teaches corporate entrepreneurship at UNG.
  • Mitchelle Johnson: She is a retired financial executive who was one of the first women in the C-suite of a major Georgia corporation when she served as chief financial officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.
  • DeMario Pressley: A former NFL player who won a Super Bowl title with the New Orleans Saints, he founded Geaux Bikes with his wife, Kristle. It is the first bikeshare company in Forsyth County, Georgia. He is also CEO of Grownstrong Farmhouse Distribution and director of distribution and logistics for Food Service Partners.
  • Kristle Pressley: She is the CEO and co-founder of Geaux Bikes. Her first entrepreneurial endeavor was LainieBugs Children's Boutique, a high-end children's clothing store she founded in 2015.

Last year's innovateUNG winning team of Caleb Hearn and Samuel Herrera went on to finish in the top five of the Georgia InVenture Prize.

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