On May 20th, Moore Forward will host its second annual Shark Tank, an event that showcases innovation and entrepreneurship amongst Moore County High School students. Fifteen teams, competing for a first prize of $1,000 and a second prize of $500, will present business plans to a panel of five "sharks." 

“Last year we had everything from healthy dog food (that even humans could eat) to a student who had calculated a way to turn speed bumps at fast food restaurants in to an energy generator," explains Marybeth Sandell, who leads the organization of the event. 

"One team had an idea to help the blind match their clothes in the morning."

The winning team from last year wanted to create a digital solution to help teachers and parents better communicate.

Judging criteria include scalability, viability, barrier to entry, and marketability. This year, bonus points will also be given for products or ideas that enrich the community. At the awards ceremony, the judges will be able to talk to the top teams and offer them advice on the development on their ideas. Afterwards, other attendees will be able to discuss students’ ideas with them, as well. 

The title sponsor of the event is First Bank, headquartered in Southern Pines. Duke Energy is the premium sponsor for Moore Forward for 2015. 

The Shark Tank has expanded significantly since last year, when the first event was held on the campus of Sandhills Community College and drew a standing room only crowd. This year, Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo offered Moore Forward the use of the Pinehurst Fair Barn. This year's event also drew seasoned entrepreneurs for the panel of sharks.

"The sharks this year actually have a strong background in founding businesses - everything from manufacturing to retail to finance to engineering," Sandell explained. 

Moore County schools are also expanding their course offerings to focus on entrepreneurialism. Last year, Union Pines High School offered entrepreneurism as an elective, and the class attracted 30 students. After the first Shark Tank event, class registration grew to 300 students. Seeing the growing demand for classes on entrepreneurship, Pinecrest High School has now decided to offer the same class. 

Sandell pointed out that Moore County is unique in its offering of an event of this sort for high school students, since many entrepreneurial competitions target university audiences.

“In Moore County,” she explained, “we don’t have that big university anchor, so Moore Forward decided to help grow entrepreneurs - catch kids while they’re still in Moore County and show them they can be innovative and entrepreneurial, here. So they know when they do go away to school, they can always come back.

We’re all about trying to help them take another step forward.”

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