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On Thursday March 16th, 12 Huron High School students participated in the first ever Student Pitch Challenge hosted by the Regional Incubator for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) and North Point Educational Service Center. The students had been working for weeks to develop a business elevator pitch to share with a panel of judges and a community audience on event day.  

The Regional Incubator for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship is an entrepreneur support program of Erie County Economic Development Corporation and Norwalk Economic Development Corporation. One objective of the program is to foster entrepreneurial thinking in our region’s young people.  

“We determined one of the best ways to spark entrepreneurship in our students is to host a Pitch Challenge. While having fun, the kids would be building many necessary life skills – public speaking, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership skills and more,” – Alissa Fisher, Coordinator for the Regional Incubator.   

Co-host for the event, North Point Educational Service Center, is a regional educational services provider that supports and assists 27 school systems and over 38,000 students in north central Ohio. North Point presents many programs for area schools including the Ohio four star-rated Business Advisory Council which engages the business and education communities to support educational and business needs. 

“North Point played a crucial role in connecting our program to the classrooms. We were glad to have their team as a partner in this project,” – Fisher.  

To prepare for the Pitch Challenge event, RISE supplied participating schools with a pitch-building curriculum from the Young Entrepreneur Institute along with some additional activities for the classroom. From there, educators could add or remove any activities to best fit their student’s needs.  

Huron High School, Norwalk High School, Margaretta High School, and Monroeville High School educators took part in the learning by utilizing the curriculum, classroom activities, or attending The Pitch presentations. 

“The students really enjoyed the activities provided by the Pitch Challenge. Most students had never done anything like it. It proved to be challenging but with all the right tools, they worked through their fears and let skill and confidence be their compass through the unknown. I always remind my students that if you aren’t uncomfortable a little then you aren’t growing,” – Patty Ryan, Teacher at Huron High School.  

There were three student finalists, each receiving $100 as competition winners. Peter Cencer, Freshman at Huron High School and student in the STEAM class, presented the Power Pack, a rechargeable and removable electric vehicle battery. Andrea Schwartz, Junior at Huron and student in the One World class, shared her vision for Countertop Composters, a small and multipurpose composter for home use. Brianna Miller, Sophomore at Huron and student in the One World class, pitched the Better Bottle, a recyclable and uniquely designed bottle for soaps, lotions, and other liquid hygiene items. 

Pitch Challenge Winners

 “The Pitch Challenge was an amazing experience and life altering for some! It showed them how to follow an idea from the conception of the “Light Bulb” moment to The Pitch presentation.  It empowered them to successfully take on an entrepreneurial challenge while giving them some business, marketing and public speaking tools for their post-high school future. After watching these young people develop a new growth mindset while overcoming challenges, I will definitely encourage them to participate again next year!” – Ryan.  

Winners were chosen by a panel of judges made up of Meg Corso, owner of Exclusively BA; Steve Frankfather, Vice President of Commercial Lending at VacationLand Federal Credit Union; Tara Harkness, owner of Sweetness of Ohio; Dr. Andrew Kurtz, Dean at BGSU Firelands College; and Lea Wechter, owner of Gathering Grounds Coffee House.  

“We plan to repeat the Pitch Challenge each year, hopefully adding more schools to the program. The goal is to make this a large event for regional relationship-building and collaboration to best support youth entrepreneurial thinking,” – Fisher.  

The 2023 event was supported by several donors including VacationLand Federal Credit Union, Bake Erie, BGSU Firelands College, Dave’s Food Mart, Exclusively BA, Gathering Grounds Coffee House, Larry Fletcher, Sweetness of Ohio, Tree Kids LawnCare, and Violet Pineapple Balloons.