Small Business News

Entrepreneurs Make Their Pitch
Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
By: Shaun Sappenfield

For the sixth consecutive year, StartUp JC offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business ideas for a chance at winning cash awards to help support future growth plans.  In October, entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch their business ideas.  The event, held at the Capital Event Center, was hosted by StartUp JC and the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Rural Missouri, Inc., a provider of SBA small business loans.

For the fifth year, Rural Missouri, Inc. (RMI) has been the main sponsor of the Pitch It & Win It competition.   Without their generous contribution of monetary awards, StartUp Jefferson City would not be able to offer this unique opportunity to the local community.  “RMI’s ongoing support is critical to the success of StartUp JC’s pitch competition,” said Shaun Sappenfield, Existing Business Manager for the Chamber.  “Zola Finch and her staff are very supportive of our efforts, as collectively our missions align to assist both new and existing businesses.”

 “The annual pitch competition offers startups a venue to promote their business ideas,” said Dr. Eric  Burgess PhD., Department Head and Assistant Professor in the Department of Business at Lincoln University and StartUp JC committee member. “Providing guidance and resources is the main focus of StartUp JC efforts and the pitch competition is one way to engage entrepreneurs early on in their planning process.” Since its inception, representatives from Lincoln University’s Business School have been strong supporters of StartUp JC’s efforts as some students see business ownership as a great option after graduation. 

In all, ten individuals made their business pitch to a panel of judges, made up of local business professionals from both the private and public sector. Business ideas ranged from a non-profit diaper bank which would provide diapers to low income families, online fitness classes, gaming retail store, and a personal maternity concierge service.  Each of the pitch participants provided a detailed synopsis of their business plan, accompanied by a visual (PowerPoint) overview, all of which addressed seven specific criteria points consistent with a business plan outline – Problem, Solution, Market Opportunity, Business Model, Competition and Sustainable Advantage, Management Team, and Financial Outcomes. 

Winning Pitch Ideas:

  • 1st place ($2,500)   (Pictured top left)
    • Horticulture Classroom (Justin Neihart) – Hands on educational horticulture classes
  • 2nd place ($1,500)  (Pictured top right)
    • Flowers from No Where Else (Angela Whitman) – Custom Flower Arrangements
  • 3rd place ($500)  (Pictured bottom left)
    • Pyramid Principal Fitness (Damian Bunting) – Fitness & Development via Social Media
  • 3rd place ($500)  (Pictured bottom right)
    • Capital City Diaper Bank (Katie Epema) – Non-profit diaper bank for low income families

 “Since its launch six years ago, StartUp JC has focused on identifying startup business opportunities and providing them with the resources needed to start and grow their business,” said Chris Thompson, Business Development Specialist with the UM-Cole County Extension Office. “The pitch competition is a great vehicle to connect with and support entrepreneurs within our community.”

Small businesses are the economic backbone of most all communities as they provide sustainable employment opportunities, generate tax revenues for the local economy, provide community involvement, and contribute to a community’s identify as these are only a few of the attributes they provide. A quick check of the Chamber’s member businesses employing twenty-five or fewer employees indicates this number stands at just over eighty percent.  With this in mind, the Chamber along with StartUp JC continues to focus on offering programs and business resources to assist not only business startups, but support the community’s existing small businesses as they continue to drive the local economy.

As StartUp JC moves past the Pitch It & Win It event, the group continues to provide support to each pitch participant and to anyone seeking professional business counseling.  If you are interested in receiving business counseling, please contact Shaun Sappenfield, Existing Business Manager at 638-3586 or by email @

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