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A Fast-Pitch from entrepreneurs
Contest attracts students, teachers, business owners
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Dr. Luke Pittaway of the Georgia Southern University College of Business Administration. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      Local entrepreneurs had the opportunity this past Friday to "pitch" their business ideas in front of a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs, investors, and Georgia Southern faculty. In the first ever Eagle Fastpitch competition, 16 brave souls sought to convince the judges that their idea would make for a successful and vibrant enterprise.
      "The purpose of the Eagle FastPitch program is to identify promising, local entrepreneurs and elicit community resources for starting new ventures and growing existing businesses," said Dr. Luke Pittaway, the organizer for the event and the director of the Center for Entrepreneurial   Learning and Leadership at Georgia Southern University. Pittaway also serves as the William A Freeman Distinguished Chair in Free Enterprise in the university's College of Business Administration.
      Each entrepreneur was allowed to make a three minute presentation of their innovative venture ideas and be assessed as to the viability of the venture by local community leaders and academic professionals. There were three categories of presenters: Student, Academic, and Local Entrepreneurs.
      James Kicklighter, co-chairman of Jamesworks Entertainment won top honors for most promising venture in the student competition. A public relations major at Georgia Southern, Kicklighter was very comfortable and enthusiastic presenting his idea.
       "I started this company when I was 15 years old," Kicklighter said. "We are a full service media company, specializing in film and audio production, Web design, and marketing strategies through social media. I know that small independent films can be made using new technologies that make their production much cheaper ensuring continued viability for this genre. We are accessing those technologies now."
       Kicklighter's company has produced several documentaries including the upcoming Land of Higher Peace. "We have successfully proven that we can deliver micro-budget films (under $10,000) that can draw attention in major circuits. With low overhead, we are better prepared to deliver profitable projects with adequate capital for P&A."
       Pittaway said that judges in the competition will provide mentoring support to the contestants. "We look for people that can help entrepreneurs either with funding or coaching of sorts," he said. "There are competitions like this that are held all over the country. In fact, one was held last year in Savannah."
       According to Dr. Ervin Williams, a spokesperson for the Center for Business Growth and Entrepreneurship at Savannah State University, that competition was also very successful. "We had 12 finalists out of 40 plans submitted. We held it in conjunction with Armstrong State University."
       Winner of the Eagle Fastpitch local entrepreneur award was Dr. Thomas Kollars, Jr., president of ProVector, LLC and Mevlabs, Inc. According to Kollars, he has developed an economical and environmentally safe "green" device for killing adult mosquitoes. The job of ProVector is to create consumer and industrial products from the research and development spearheaded by Mevlabs.
       "We have five employees here in Statesboro, and we are looking for investors and partners to help us expand our research and development facilities in Statesboro," he said. "We are looking for folks that share the dream of providing eco-friendly pest management and public health products. This was a wonderful chance to meet the business community, to get some really good advice, and to find someone that shares the same interest that I do. This was a great opportunity."
       Pittaway said it is the intent to make this event an annual one.
       "Even though each winner received a monetary prize, we weren't able to give a very large prize this year, but as the event continues to grow, I expect that the prize money will grow substantially as well," he said. "You hope at some point that the money awarded will serve as ‘seed' money for an aspiring entrepreneur. There are competitions around the country that award $100,000 or more. It really is invaluable experience for those willing to present their idea."
       The faculty winner was Dr. Pamela Marsh, a temporary assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geography at Georgia Southern.
       "As a teacher, I think it is really very difficult to teach about science in the classroom," she said. "There is such a difference when people can see and touch what you are talking about. It changes everything in the learning process."
       Marsh's idea is to provide hands-on environmental education by taking students out of the classroom and into the field with experiences such as shipboard marine science education, salt marsh tours, swamp and wetland investigation, and mountain hikes.
       "Expeditions will be advertised through mailings to schools and colleges, as well as fliers and website," she said. "Revenue generation will come from fees charged to groups and individuals participating in the education experiences."
       Brandon Blair, co-owner of 180 Fitness in Statesboro, served as one of the judges. "It was really a wonderful opportunity for me," he said. "Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I thought some great ideas were presented. I can really see how some of these people could be very successful."