Inaugural Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge concludes with last pitch effort

As the winner of the inaugural Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, Taylor Hicks, right, plans to use the $12,500 in winnings to open an office in Greenville. (Photo credit ECU News Services)

The inaugural, three-round Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge concluded Feb. 22 with Simple and Sentimental, LLC taking first place and a cash prize of $12,500.

The company is owned and operated by ECU College of Business sophomore Taylor Hicks and creates unique hand-lettered goods. It competed against six other student teams that also made it through the prior two rounds. Each team presented a five-minute pitch, which was followed by a three-minute question-and-answer session with a panel of five judges.

Beyond Tutoring, founded by Matt McCall, a senior with the College of Engineering and Technology, took the second prize and walked away with $5,000. Third place and $2,500 went to FOWL, owned by Nick Venditti, a senior with the College of Business.

According to Dr. Mike Harris, director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship (MSOE), all winners are required to reach pre-approved milestones to obtain all funding. In addition to the cash prizes, the Miller School of Entrepreneurship will connect all winners with a network of entrepreneurial resources in eastern North Carolina.

When asked what Hicks was going to do with the winnings, she said, “we’re going to sign a lease for a new office in Greenville.”

“The mark of a great entrepreneurship program is its ability to provide resources for students to launch new ventures,” said Harris. “Entrepreneurship is about action, and tonight all seven teams demonstrated the passion and skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur.”

The Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge is the signature pitch competition of East Carolina University’s College of Business and its MSOE. The challenge began in October 2017 with 57 teams competing for the cash prizes, and then 12 teams moving on to the second round in November. Third-round finalists were paired with individual mentors who helped the student teams develop their business concepts.

A panel of five judges representing MSOE’s four regional advisory councils chose the winners. The judges were:

  • Benny Ward, MSOE Triangle Advisory Council
  • David Bond, MSOE Triangle Advisory Council
  • Scott Diggs, MSOE Cape Fear Advisory Council
  • Paul Adkison, MSOE Piedmont Advisory Council
  • Connally Branch, MSOE Coastal Plains Advisory Council

The College of Business, which is represented by the winning team, was awarded the Challenge Cannon to display in the college, like the Stanley Cup, until next year’s challenge.

“We are very pleased with the first Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, but we want to expand the competition to include even more students and prize money,” said Harris. “This is the type of event that will make the Miller School of Entrepreneurship a destination school for aspiring entrepreneurs.”


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