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Next Big Idea Pitch Contest will give entrepreneurs chance to prove themselves

SALISBURY — Mikey Wetzel said the Next Big Idea Pitch Contest is shaping up to be “a big deal.”

“We are very excited about it,” Wetzel said in an email.

The contest, which will be held May 5 at the Rowan IDEA Center in the former Salisbury Mall, will encompass two “Shark Tank”-style competitions. One will involve high school students, and one will involve Rowan County residents at large.

The high school contest is limited to South Rowan High School students who were selected for a program called “Five Minutes Tops.”

Brad Holda, who helped organize Five Minutes Tops for South Rowan, said seven students were chosen from among 20 who proposed innovative business ideas.

“We selected them based on the originality of the idea, how they presented it, where they were in the process,” Holda said.

He said one team of two is creating an insulated dog bowl and made a model of it using a school 3D printer. He said another student already has a thriving iPhone repair business but is using Five Minutes Tops to help refine his brand and marketing.

Holda said each of the students was paired with an in-school mentor and an outside business mentor to help with business plans and presentations.

Wetzel said the second pitch contest of the day, which is for any Rowan County resident, will run a little differently.

“The one is really simple. I’ve likened it to a Halloween contest. You put in effort into your own Halloween costume, you go before the judges and the judges say whether you’re the winner,” Wetzel said. “No mentors, no feedback along the way. People will get up on stage, will have a couple minutes and judges will get to give some feedback.”

Wetzel said the feedback will be constructive rather than negative.

“They would just ask questions. Like, ‘If you win the $1,000, would the money actually help you start this business?'” Wetzel said. “Or, ‘Is this something you’d do in Rowan County?'”

He said some of the ideas submitted so far include food or restaurant ideas, a repair service idea and phone app ideas.

“The ideas are all over the place,” Wetzel said.

The confirmed judges for the afternoon contest include Mayor Al Heggins and Shawn Campion of Integro Technologies.

Toastmasters will be present to award prizes for “best personal presentation.”

“They don’t care about the business proposal,” Wetzel said. “They care about body language, poise and confidence.”

There will be prizes for pitch winners in each of the two sessions. First-place winners will win $1,000; second-place winners, $500; and third-place winners, $250.

Wetzel said it is not too late to sign up for the Next Big Idea Pitch Contest.

“Their chance of winning if they have a good idea is still pretty high,” Wetzel said.

Anyone interested in presenting a pitch should go to rowanideacenter.com and click on Growing Rowan’s Big Idea Pitch Contest.

The public is welcome to attend the competition, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The high school session will run from 9 a.m. to noon, and the general session from 1 to 4 p.m.

Food from Krispy Kreme and Chick-Fil-A will be served.

The competition will also be videotaped and posted online.

The Rowan IDEA Center is in the former Salisbury Mall and can be accessed through the main entrance, near Thelma’s Down Home Cooking.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.



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