Written By Amanda Mollindo
After a challenging week of business education, 11 Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) students from across the Valley competed to win The Big Pitch, CEI’s student startup challenge. On Wednesday, March 20, each student pitched business ideas before an audience and judging panel that consisted of Dr. Karla Fisher, Provost of MCCCD; James Goulka, Managing Director of AZ Tech Investors; Geoffrey Ossias, a partner at Perkins Coie; and Tom Zender, local CEO Mentor & Business Coach.
Wilson Okwuobu, Scottsdale Community College student and founder of Convey Concierge, took home the grand prize of $20,000 in cash and in-kind services from APS, Perkins Coie, Woods Oviatt Gillman, and the Arizona Founders Fund. He will also be joining CEI’s business incubator program.
Now in its second year, semifinalists from each college in the District participated in The Big Pitch program. Rather than taking the week to relax during Spring Break, these student entrepreneurs attended an accelerator-style workshop that included lectures, mentorship and pitch coaching from 30 local subject matter experts and entrepreneurs. Although all participating students had strong, feasible business ideas, Convey Concierge left an impact on the judges the night of The Big Pitch.
Wilson’s business was inspired by his grandmother, who asks him to take her vehicle to get serviced whenever maintenance is needed. He realized that many others struggle to find the time to take their cars to get serviced, and came up with a way to bring cars to and from repair centers so car owners can avoid this inconvenience. After sharing his story with Scottsdale Community College Professor, Lisa Farmer, he was nominated to represent the college at the competition. “Working with Wilson to refine his pitch, financial models and marketing strategy has been such a rewarding experience for us as business faculty,” said Farmer. “We are so excited to continue to mentor and support him through the growth and expansion of his business.”
Now that he’s won The Big Pitch, Wilson says, “I hope to get ready and work hard to win a few more pitch competitions. I also hope to re-launch my business with new branding and scale the company. Most importantly, I want to optimize logistics of the business because I think that will help us grow.”
In addition to helping Wilson build and grow Convey Concierge, CEI plans to hold a monthly meeting with all 11 students who participated in The Big Pitch to help them refine their ideas and connect them to resources in the community. “After the week working with these students on their promising business ideas, we felt compelled to continue to support their efforts to realize their business dreams” Said Tom Schumann, the Executive Director of CEI.
As we wrap up another successful year with a new cohort of student entrepreneurs, we want to thank all the people and organizations that made this all happen!
Bianca Buliga, SEED SPOT
Nate Curran, COO Insights
Cathy Eckstein, Cornerstone CMO
Michael Goodman, Revenue Kinetics, LLC
Rachel Mertensmeyer, RexPay
Ronnie Ruiz, Kustom Tyres & Supplies
Rick Stoddard, Coplex
Liz Warren, South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute
Alex Wasson, Cinti Medical
Steve Wood, SWD Enterprises
Roundtable Mentors & Pitch Deck Coaches
Marcus Browne, Arizona SBDC
Mike Bull, Arizona SBDC
Greg Bullock, TheraSpecs
Brandon Clarke, StartupAZ Foundation
Michael Cohen, Arizona SBDC
Lou Farina, Arizona SBDC
Carol Laisure Pool, Arizona SBDC
Bruce McHenry, South Mountain Community Entrepreneurship Center
Tom Miller, Serial Entrepreneur
Donavon Ostrom, Arizona Collaboratory
Mike Pineda, Arizona SBDC
Dorine Rivers, Alpha 81 Inc.
Tom Swann, Serial Entrepreneur
Kay Transtrum, Coplex
Don Weber, Beacon Biomedical
Jim Zemezonak, Boulder Realty Advisors