WCC hosts business pitch competition for veterans

Washtenaw Community College’s (WCC) Entrepreneurship Center, in partnership with Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab (MVE-Lab), recently hosted a business pitch competition for local veterans, awarding $20,000 to six participants.

“It was such a great success. It had such a great impact with the people in that session and throughout campus,” says Entrepreneurship Center Director Michelle Julet. “Not only were these people doing incredible projects and had incredible businesses to start, [but] we got to know them and a little about their life and their military history.”

WCC student Phillip Burtell won the $10,000 first prize to expand his manufacturing startup, Elixir CNC. Burtell and the other participants were mentored by GVSU’s MVE-Lab, a free three-month program for veterans looking to start and expand their businesses.

Four community members, three of whom are veterans themselves, judged the competitors based on a rubric provided by the Entrepreneurship Center.

“The thing that’s special at the [Veteran Business Pitch and Showcase Night] is the impact they would make in the community,” Julet says of the judging criteria. “The judges decided winners they deemed as businesses and entrepreneurs that would be the most successful.”

The Entrepreneurship Center will also offer the annual Pitch@WCC competition in the spring of 2023, with an information session to come on Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. The deadline for Pitch@WCC applicants will be Feb. 16, and finalists from that pool of applicants will be announced on March 6. This will be WCC’s seventh Pitch@WCC competition. 

The center will also host a new program called “Make it Real! The Ultimate Convenient Entrepreneurial Training Series.” The free program will run from January to April. It will consist of a series of curated videos, panels, and workshops to teach participants the basics of entrepreneurship, from getting your business off the ground to finding customers and marketing. Julet says the combination of digital and in-person offerings is “very strategic,” and designed to meet people wherever they are in their entrepreneurial journeys.

“We call the center a hidden gem,” Julet says. “It is open to anyone. You don’t have to be a  student. You don’t have to live in Ann Arbor. We are extremely inclusive and always reaching out to the community to make everything as beneficial for people that come into the center as possible, and to increase engagement with the center.”

More information on the Entrepreneurship Center, the Make it Real series, and the winners of the Veteran Business Pitch and Showcase Night, is available on the center's website, or by emailing entrepreneurship@wccnet.edu.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo courtesy of J.D. Scott Photography.
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