Future entrepreneurs from all over Florida descended upon Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday, their best business plans in hand.
Teams representing 10 colleges from around the state were seeking start-up funds and the bragging rights that come with winning the Governor’s Cup.
“It really validates what we’re trying to do,” said Dr. Sandra Kauanui. “One of the things that’s really important to us is we’re trying to create entrepreneurship not just in the College of Business but in the entire university.”
In its second year, the Governor’s Cup is a competition hosted by REEF, the Roundtable of Entrepreneurship Educators of Florida. Each of the 10 participant schools put up $1,000 in seed funds, payable to the winning teams to help make their businesses go.
Oh, that’s right. These aren’t just business plans, they’re already working businesses, seeking to win over the judges with their designs to not only prove they can work but that they can work on an ever larger scale.
“They have all aspects of the plan looked at,” Kaunaui said. “They have thought through the entire go to market of the product, looked at how they’re going to grow and scale their business.”
Teams had 15 minutes to pitch their business before a final three advanced for one last shot to wow the judges.
The winner received $6,000 for their efforts, with $2,500 to second and $1,500 to third. This year’s winner was Sheldon Barrett of the University of Florida and Cocovana. Barrett’s product, the coconut twist, is a “can opener” for coconuts, a way to open a coconut easily and without the use of hazardous tools like a machete.
Louis Bruno, owner of Bruno Air, and the keynote speaker at the event, was impressed by Barrett’s product.
“That’s what entrepreneurship is, it’s solving problems,” Bruno said. “A problem that has probably been around since before fire, literally opening a coconut. I’m serious, that’s almost as good as the hammer.”
Bruno, who started his air conditioning company from a garage in 2012, to what is now a full home services firm offering HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services.
“At the end of the day, you only fail when you quit. If you can’t come in and take all the good and the bad, you’re not going to be successful,” Bruno said. “This is what America is, that’s what the world is.”
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