The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Sumter County as was evident at the “Shark-Tank” style event that took place on April 29 at the Wildwood Community Center. Nearly 60 applications were submitted as startup business ideas to compete for cash prizes in the Sumter’s Future Entrepreneurs event.
All three Sumter County High Schools were represented in this sixth annual event: South Sumter High School; The Villages Charter High School; and Wildwood Middle High School. The business plans first went through a round of rigorous online judging. The top two projects from each school were then invited to pitch their concepts at a live event for cash awards.
The top two finalists from each school were then mentored by volunteers from Mid-Florida SCORE in preparation for their live presentations. Mid-Florida Score mentors included David McCormick, Fred Streicher, Trish Collins and Byron Zuidema.
In a “Shark-Tank” style setting, the top finalists made their pitches demonstrating their entrepreneurial potential. The concepts were judged for creativity, innovation, market potential, competitive landscape, product clarity, and operational sustainability. Bringing many years of business experience to the judges’ table, the three individuals who volunteered their time and expertise were most impressed! The judges for the event were: Randy Reeder, AgeWave Solutions, Inc; Beth Hunt, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office; and Debbie Moffitt, Assistant Superintendent Sumter County Schools.
The culmination of the evening was the presentation of awards. Each school earned a 1st place ($1000) and a 2nd place ($500) award. Award sponsors included: T & D Pool and Spa Service; AgeWave Solutions, Inc; Alive2Thrive: The Santoro Foundation; The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office; Citizens First Bank; and RoMac Building Supply.
First Place Finalists were: South Sumter High School- Cori Riddell, Solar Lightning; The Villages Charter High School- Olivia Williams, You Spend Me Right Round; Wildwood Middle High School- Jaylyn Charpentier, Charpe Style Jewelry. Each of these finalists receives a $1,000.00 cash prize from the award sponsors to further their entrepreneurship idea.
Olivia Williams from The Villages Charter School was also recognized as the overall winner and received an additional $100.00 prize.
Second Place Finalists were: South Sumter High- Abigail Derby-Wine, Mix and Mask; The Villages Charter High- Elisabeth Ngo, La Beautique; Wildwood Middle High- Calvin Hoopes, Speed Detailing. All second place finalists receives $500 from the award sponsors to further their entrepreneurship idea.
The third- through fifth-place finalists of the online competition from each school displayed posters outlining their business ideas and will receive $100 to further their Entrepreneurship plans for next year’s competition. The Display Finalists were: from South Sumter High School – Destiny and David Barnes (team), Auston Chisenhall, and Raelyn Simmons; from The Villages Charter High School – Cylie Reeder, Rebecca Spangler and Ashley Delezenne (team), and Magdalen Stansberry; from Wildwood Middle High School- Caleb Pickens and Austin Peavy (team), Nicole Vega Soto, and Randy “RJ” Mears.