Nine teams of budding student entrepreneurs from all 3 area high schools wowed the judges and competed for prize money at the 3rd Annual Shark Tank event on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. A five-member Union Pines High School entrepreneurial team was voted Most Likely to Succeed and won the $1,000 top prize and $1,000 scholarships presented by the Sandhills Community College Foundation.
Organized by Moore Forward, the annual competition is based on the ABC television program "Shark Tank". Just like on TV, students had 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to real-world business professionals. Solomon McDonald, Vaughn Blakely, Zaire Curry, Noah Taber and Camden Ure presented Game On, a mobile gaming operation, based around popular multi-player environment video games, that would host recreational-level eSports competitions at various locations.
This year’s panel of judges included Cameron Cruse and Micah Niebauer. Cruse, together with her business partner Lisa Bradley, appeared on a February episode of the "Shark Tank" national TV show. They successfully pitched their Southern Pines-based R. Riveter handbag company to the celebrity Shark Tank panel. Billionaire Mark Cuban took a bite, offering the women $100,000 for a 20% stake in their growing business.
Another well-known local entrepreneur, Niebauer is CEO of Southern Pines Brewing. He served 11 years in the U.S. Army and cofounded the popular craft brewery in 2014 with two fellow retired Special Forces soldiers.
"Moore County is a phenomenal market to be able to move into for any entrepreneur,” said Niebauer.
The panel of judges based their decisions on six criteria, including clarity of mission, innovation, viability, scaleability, profit, and investment potential. Bonus points were awarded for social responsibility.
The runner-up prize was awarded to the Union High School team of Chance Frye, Jonah Saunders and Devyn Zielanski. The three presented a proposal for Southern Class Clothing, a young men’s retail store that would cater to the preppy market. Pinecrest student Aaron Jackson won honorable mention for his mobile food truck, Polar Ices, that would serve sweet treats at community events. Pinecrest senior Gunnar Levin was recognized with the Innovation Award for his presentation of the Moncho. Designed for wheelchair-bound individuals, the Moncho is a reversible poncho-style wrap that would not inhibit the function of the wheelchair. The Union Pines team of Jacob Lennon and Jackson Taylor won the Most Impactful to the Community award for their product, Mornourishment, a healthy meal replacement bar for purchase in the United States and that would also be distributed freely to needy, malnourished people in other countries.
Major event sponsors for the Sandhills Shark Tank event were the Duke Energy Foundation and First Bank. The scholarship awards presented to the prize-winning team of Game On, provides a two-semester opportunity at Sandhills Community College or the gift may fund a university-led summer course and related fees.
Moore Forward was established to help cultivate innovative entrepreneurship and small business development to create sustainable, high-quality jobs in the county’s municipalities. Moore Forward specifically targets the military, wellness and technology industries.
Photo courtesy of The Pilot