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Noah Postin, a graduate student in the Community and Economic Development master's program and an SBDC consultant, is pictured with Elijah Richardson, the first place winner.
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Illinois Small Business Development Center Announces Student Business Pitch Competition Winners

April 18, 2019

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MACOMB, IL -- The Illinois Small Business Development Center (IL-SBDC) at Western Illinois University sponsored the first Student Business Pitch Competition April 11, providing a venue to student entrepreneurs.

Interim Vice President for Administrative Services William Polley welcomed eight students who pitched their ideas to a panel made up of five local business representatives. Each competitor had 15 minutes to prepare, present and field questions from the judges.

Noah Postin, a graduate student in the Community and Economic Development Master program and an SBDC consultant, organized the event. Local businesses, Casey's General Store and Walmart, provided door prizes, which were awarded to the audience.

According to SBDC Director Jim Boyd, Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) graduate student Elijah Richardson, of East Pointe, MI, was awarded $1,000 for first place.

"After tallying contestant scores, our panel of judges determined that Elijah's Multi Sport Complex, designed for Inner City Youth, had the greatest potential to be a viable business," said Boyd.

He added that contestants had to demonstrate the ability to develop a profit margin over time.

"As a resident of Detroit, Elijah's proposal reflected his experience and knowledge in understanding what it would take to bring investors to the table and realize a profit in the short and long term," said Boyd.

Sophomore pre-business marketing major Bryce Palmer, of Abingdon, IL, won $750 for second place with his pitch to develop alcohol-free events geared toward WIU students. Makenzie Harris, a freshman communication major from Joliet, IL, was awarded the $500 third place prize for her organic juice venture.

Students also participating in the competition included Zach Glisan, a senior marketing major from Abingdon, IL; Alexis Joyner, an LEJA graduate student from Machesney Park, IL; Tawanda Mberikwazvo, an instructional design and technology graduate student from Zimbabwe; Emmanuel Sanchez, a freshman LEJA major from Chicago; and Alexander Whitehurst, a senior hospitality management major from Canton, IL.

Boyd said the winners will have the opportunity to become SBDC clients, receiving free counseling and advice.

"While it is not a requirement of the competition to actually launch a business, the SBDC will provide the support needed to help in developing their ideas," Boyd said. "This experience will help position them to seek investors and will also foster economic growth within the communities where they might someday choose to launch their businesses."

The SBDC director worked with the city of Macomb last summer to sponsor a pitch contest that included eight contestants competing for a $28,000 cash prize to help start their business. The city hosted the competition in an effort to develop new retail business for the downtown area.

The contest was open to anyone with a business idea and participants received training from Boyd, who provided instruction on operating a business, assembling a business plan and pitching ideas. Sean West of Forgottonia Brewing, and an information technology technical associate at WIU, won the competition with his idea for a micro brewing operation, which will open this spring.

West was among the panel of judges for the pitch competition, which also included Theresa Mangieri, Ken Springer, Anthony Ricco, Monte Bottens and Lauren Merritt.

The Illinois Small Business Development Center provides free consultation to individuals interested in expanding an existing business or starting a new business in Illinois. It is a unit of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at WIU. The Illinois Small Business Development Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the U.S. Small Business Administration and WIU.

To learn more about the SBDC, visit

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