The Union Recorder

April 10, 2014

Georgia College entrepreneurs earn startup money

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Twelve teams from six 478 area code colleges competed Saturday in the College Hill Alliance's inaugural “The Next Big Idea” event intended to spur entrepreneurship among young people.

Though Wesleyan College students' karaoke lounge concept won the $10,000 prize grand prize, Georgia College presented strong and realistic business ventures that earned second and third place money of $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

By rule, competitors' plans were tied to implementation in the middle Georgia area.

All students enrolled at the six institutions for the current spring semester were eligible to enter. Teams registered their business plans online by the March 10 deadline.

From that pool of registered teams, each institution chose up to two semifinalist teams.

Georgia College Associate Professor of Marketing Renée J. Fontenot, Ph.D., taught a boot camp business plan competition this January and February.

“Both of the teams that went forward on Saturday took the class,” Fontenot said.

GC sophomore marketing student Sarah Watters' second-place idea, ‘Share the Shot,’ was a mobile photograph printing business. Watters plans to equip a vehicle and travel to various summer and weekend events offering direct printing from smartphones.

“(Watters) idea won't take much capital to get started,” Fontenot said. “What was great about her idea was that when she stepped out of the first round she already had people stepping up saying, 'I love your idea' and 'I want to be an investor'.”

Taking the third place prize was the Georgia College senior management student team of Adrienne Warren and Mark Lichtenwalner.

They pitched, The Haversack, a downtown Milledgeville “small imprint grocery store” serving the growing residential population, according to Fontenot.

“The farmer's market has shown that people come through the downtown district to buy things,” she said. “They want to help provide an outlet for fresh groceries everyday.”

Fontenot said the third place business idea would stock natural and organic options for patrons gathered from local or regional sources, as well as prepared to-go foods.

Lichtenwalner and Warren are serious about the business.

“They have some community support, but they need more,” she said. “We have the opportunity to help these young people stay and become a very vital part of our community.”

These weren't the only viable projects coming out of Georgia College.

Fontenot said some students aren't quite ready to commit to Baldwin County. The outlook is shifting though.

“I have seniors who are graduating this semester saying Milledgeville has gone through a major transformation in the last five years. They are seeing it. It's starting to be a place they aren't sure they want to leave,” the GC professor said.

While the final lease-purchase contract still hasn't received City of Milledgeville approval, leadership behind the conceptual Shaw building community-based public-private partnership encouraging learning, entrepreneurism and economic development are hard at work.

The project known as Summit Communiversity welcomes these impressive big ideas mentioned above.

“The longer it waits the more some of these individuals who want to be a member of the Communiversity will look elsewhere,” Fontenot said. “People need to move forward. We are at risk at losing some of these individuals if the city doesn't move quickly.”