the Winner of the Big Pitch is... Ronnie Ruiz!
Community colleges are no longer just places to get an Associate’s degree or to take some gen-ed credits that can apply to a university program. At the Maricopa Community College District, some students are taking courses in preparation to launch their own business. Recognizing this, the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation — a business incubator located on the GateWay Community College Campus — launched The Big Pitch, a student startup challenge that put participating students through a high-impact accelerator for a chance to win over $20,000 in cash and services. After learning from over two dozen seasoned business leaders, Estrella Mountain College student and owner of Kustom Tyres and Supplies (KT&S), Ronnie Ruiz, won the grand prize.
“I never thought I’d do any type of pitch for my business, but I had the opportunity to be here, so I took advantage of it,” Ronnie said after winning The Big Pitch, “there’s a lot to learn, especially if you want to go big.” Along with new business knowledge and funding from APS and Arizona Founders Fund, Ronnie is walking away with in-kind business services from Coplex, DLA Piper, and Woods Oviatt Gilman. To help him grow KT&S as quickly and efficiently as possible, he will also be working directly with CEI throughout the next year, with the goal of reaching $100,000 in revenue.
Even though they didn’t win The Big Pitch, students from GateWay, Glendale, Chandler-Gilbert, South Mountain, and Paradise Valley Community Colleges gained the knowledge and resources that they plan to use as they pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Paradise Valley student, Christopher Figueroa said, “When I started college, I never thought I’d be launching a startup or anything of that nature. I thought I’d be counseling at-risk youth. But for me, The Big Pitch has been transformational...Going forward, I want to tell students that no idea is too small or too big. If you can see it in yourself, there is a process that will help get your idea out there, communicate it to others, and make it a reality.”
Next month, Ronnie will be representing Maricopa Community Colleges at the Conscious Capitalism Collegiate Challenge at Grand Canyon University on April 11, 2018. After that, CEI is excited to work with him on developing his business as the incubator prepares for the second Big Pitch event in 2018.