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The Villages
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Villages Charter School student takes first place in entrepreneurial competition

Students from The Villages charter schools competed for first and second place at a “Shark Tank” style event in February at the Wildwood Community Center. 

Nearly 130 students began the competition last September as applications were submitted online for startup business plan ideas to compete for cash prizes in the Sumter’s Future Entrepreneurs event. All three Sumter County high schools were represented in this annual event, including The Villages Charter High School, South Sumter 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 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, Kerry Gribosky, Pete Atkin 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 Brenda Chrisman of CareerSource Central Florida, Randy “RM” Thompson of AgeWave Solutions, Inc and Don Magruder of RoMac Building Supply.

Stanley First Place
From left, Superintendent of Schools Richard Shirley presents Chlolee Stanley with a first-place prize alongside Sally Moss of the Sumter County School Board and Randy Thompson of AgeWave Solutions, Inc.

The most suspenseful moment of the evening was the presentation of awards. A first-place winner ($1,000) and a second-place winner ($500) were named for each school. Award sponsors included Citizens First Bank, CareerSource Central Florida, AgeWave Solutions, Inc, Suncoast Credit Union, The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, RoMac Building Supply, T&D Pool Construction and Commissioner Craig Estep. 

First-place finalists were: The Villages Charter High School- Chlolee Stanley – CF Beach Shuttle; South Sumter High School- Shyra Pittman and Jenna Stevens – Refresh Mess; Wildwood Middle High School- Jacob Sumner, Rebecca Fitzgerald, Esly Villeda (team) – Flourish Bakery Shop. Each of these finalists receives a $1,000 cash prize from the award sponsors to further their entrepreneurship idea. 

Second-place finalists were: The Villages Charter High- Jonah Terry – Vigilance Tech Patrol; South Sumter High- Amber Arnold – Exotic Eats; Wildwood Middle High- Jordan Miranda – Grass tetany prevention. All second-place finalists receive $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 $200 to further their entrepreneurship plans for next year’s competition. The display finalists were: from The Villages Charter High School –Macy Steven and Mary Belcher (team), Kaiming Lei and Luke Weber; from South Sumter High School – Macie Wilkinson and Yadira Valdez-Rodriquez (team), Felipe Alanis, and Randy Moses; and from Wildwood Middle High School – Kara Louden and Alexis McDowell (team), Tom Williams and Itzel Zarazua-Benitez.

Terry Presenting
Second-place finalist Jonah Terry presents Vigilance Tech Patrol to the judges.

A new feature this year was the addition of the Sumter Invention Convention. This segment of the competition was opened for middle school students to display and compete with an invention or innovation. Each school selected two finalists to compete at the event. Winners will receive $300 for first place or $150 for second place. The competition involved students from The Villages Charter Middle Schools, South Sumter Middle School and Wildwood Middle High School. Judges for the Sumter Invention Convention were Suzette Herman, Cindy Brown, Jaime Meade, Beth Hunt, Liz Roberts and Byron Zuidema. 

Award winners were:  

  • South Sumter Middle School first place – Blake Geahlen and Darren Hamilton 
  •  The Villages Charter Middle first place – Kylie Nisbet 
  • Wildwood Middle High School first place – James Hood 
  • South Sumter Middle School second place – Sidney Reynolds 
  • The Villages Charter Middle first place – Claire Hampton 
  • Wildwood Middle High School first place – Tucker Skipper 

Sumter School Superintendent Rick Shirley was very impressed by the student entrepreneurs. He commented, “This year’s entrepreneurial contest demonstrated the wide variety of interests our students have and the wealth of creative business opportunities available if you have the desire, organizational skills, work ethic and a good imagination. Congratulations to our participants as they were all winners at some level. Also, our judges, sponsors and planning committee members outdid themselves this year, and our sincere thanks for their help!” 

Sumter businesses, agencies and individuals generously supported this endeavor. In addition to prize sponsors, the following agencies sponsored the event: The City of Wildwood donated the use of The Wildwood Community Center for the event; Suncoast Credit Union sponsored meal costs for the finalists in addition to the display finalists’ prizes; Flutterby Field supplied the decorations for the evening; and Tangent Media also supplied graphic upgrades for the competition. Sumter County Schools is proud to partner with the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and CareerSource Central Florida to host this event.

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