3rd annual 53 Ideas Pitch Competition provides business opportunities

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Would-be entrepreneurs could get a leg up through an annual competition held this month.

The third annual 53 Ideas Pitch Competition is underway and could mean cash prizes as well as coaching on pitching, financing, forecasting and general business.

“There is greater awareness that people are seeking capital to bring their ideas to life, but have difficulty finding it,” said Steve Padgett, director of the Small Business Center at Cleveland Community College.

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Studies show that four out of five entrepreneurs do not access bank loans or venture capital. Instead, their sources of funding are personal network, generational wealth or connections to networks. The 53 Ideas Pitch Competition exists to help lessen this inequality in entrepreneurship.

“We know businesses start with great ideas and if we can provide resources to nurture and grow those ideas, our community will thrive,” Padgett said.

The contest is supported by Cleveland Community College and Fifth Third Bank with free resources offered by Small Business Centers located at community colleges throughout the region, including Central Piedmont, Cleveland, Gaston, Mitchell, Rowan-Cabarrus, South Piedmont and Stanly.

Here’s how it works:

To enter, individuals have 53 seconds to share their idea in the form of a video submitted at 53ideas.com.

Round one is based on the idea. Contestants do not have to be pitch pros. They just need to share who they are, their idea, the problem it solves, how it is new or superior to an existing product or service and how they can make it happen.

Judges will select the top 53 ideas, and those contestants will move on in the competition to receive training to help them prepare a three-minute pitch for the second round of the competition.

Judges will then narrow the field to the top 10, and those selected will receive $250 before moving forward to compete in the Pitch Day finale. The top spot will receive $10,000, second place $5,000 and third place $2,500 to help turn their idea into a viable business.

“We are committed to supporting entrepreneurship across Charlotte and throughout North Carolina,” said Joel Dancy, with Fifth Third Bank. “We are very excited to again be supporting the 53 Ideas Pitch Competition because it not only helps in the short term with access to capital for the winners but also in the long term through financial education for all participants.”

Last year’s competition received more than 130 entries.

Nicole Hawthorne was announced the winner for Jayla’s Heirlooms, a business providing handcrafted diverse dolls. Nicole went on to partner with Amazon, where her culturally diverse dolls are available for children and families worldwide.

To learn more and enter this year’s pitch competition by the May 31 deadline, go to 53ideas.com.

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