On the evening of March 31 at Craven Community College (CCC), a feeling of anticipation was in the air in a classroom. The judges were sequestered in an adjoining conference room contemplating the fate of seven people who just pitched them their business ideas. Panther Pitch, named after the college’s mascot, is a business idea competition modeled after the popular reality television show Shark Tank.
The five-minute pitch was the last few moments of the five-week-long Entrepreneur Academy that is offered in the fall and spring by the college’s Small Business Center (SBC). The entrepreneurs willing to pitch their businesses included Kathy Adoph, New Bern Arts and Culture Center; Minnie McPhatter, PB’s Italian Ice; Mike Richards, Your Time Vacations; Chris Ricter, Christopher’s List; Annazette Riley, Satz Beauty; Rose Torres, The Ticking Crocodile; and Terri Van Sickle, Write Around The Block.
Enter the judges. The audience takes their seats. SBC interim director Rebecca Moorer is joined by mascot Knight the Panther in the front of the room. Moorer said, “The winner of our first Panther Pitch is Minnie McPhatter and PB’s Italian Ice.” McPhatter jumped up in excitement and ran up to the front of the room to receive her prize from Knight and Moorer while the audience rose to their feet and gave McPhatter a standing ovation.
This business idea wasn’t new to McPhatter. While working as a school teacher and coach, she was hoping to sell Italian ice during summer school vacations. It wasn’t until she retired from H.J. MacDonald middle school in 2013 that she had the time to finally launch PB’s Italian Ices. McPhatter has been profitably running her business at locations in James City and Vanceboro as well as traveling to area festivals. “I decided to participate in the Panther Pitch to take my business to the next level,” said McPhatter. For more information about PB’s Italian Ice, visit their website at www.pbsitalianice.com.
The panel of judges included Timothy Downs, Craven County economic development director; Tharesa Lee, New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce board chair; Don Spry, U.S. Small Business Administration senior area manager Southeastern North Carolina; and Diane Tyndall, business instructor and chair of CCC’s business, information technology and education programs.
The business ideas were judged and scored on six criteria: business model, quality of the idea, market opportunity, ownership/management team, effectiveness in answering judges’ questions, and overall presentation.
McPhatter won a prize package totaling $2,000 and included services from Blue Envelope Design, Brink Strategy, Craven 100 Alliance, New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, Open Aperture Photography, Solid Rock Accounting, Surf, Wind and Fire, The Reactive Voice, and Ward & Smith.
For more information about the SBC and to register for upcoming workshops go to the college’s website at www.cravencc.edu/sbc or call Moorer at 252-638-1166.
Deborah Kania is the director of marketing, communications and development liaison at Craven Community College.
Article originally appeared in the New Bern Sun Journal.