Fresno State entrepreneurs claim $5,000 prize in contest

A member of Fresno State’s Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Program won $5,000 for top prize at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Conference and Pitch Competition in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 2 and 3.

The event also features the oldest and largest Elevator Pitch Competition, in which competitors are given 90 seconds to pitch their business model to a panel of judges. With only 80 selected participants in the contest, a record six current and former Fresno State EMP students were selected, according to EMP.

Four Fresno State students, including Alicia Porras, Gladys Sanchez, Rafalea Santillan and Tyler Puccio, were selected to advance to the semifinal round of the competition, among 12 other competitors.

Sanchez, Santillan and Puccio advanced to the final round of eight. Puccio claimed the first place prize, while Santillan placed third and claimed a prize of $2,000.

“Placing in the top three has fueled my drive to continue to grow the business and make a change in the world,” Santillan said. “I am proud of myself because I am not a business student but  shows me that all the hard work I do outside of my major — communication disorders-speech language pathology — is paying off and recognized.”

Puccio was also selected to deliver his pitch at the 5th Annual U. Pitch National Elevator Pitch Competition in Chicago on Nov. 16, in which 18 students will compete for a grand prize of $10,000, according to EMP.

“I am proud of all our Laval Entrepreneur Mentor students who provided support and encouragement to our pitch contestants,” said Dr. Timothy Stearns, professor of entrepreneurship in the Department of Management. “And also, to the mentors who provided countless hours in coaching the EMP students with their pitch and refinement of business models.”

A total of 19 members of Fresno State’s Entrepreneurship Club and the EMP attended the annual event, which hosts over 800 college students with an interest in entrepreneurship.

The EMP offers students an opportunity to learn from and network with local business leaders with professional experience in various fields.

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