For Howard Community College's student entrepreneurs, opportunity didn't just knock this fall — it drove right onto campus. Wrapped in the red, gold and black colors of the state flag, the Startup Maryland "Pitch Across Maryland" bus turned plenty of heads as it pulled into the parking lot in front of The Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall — which was exactly the idea. "This event is all about celebrating entrepreneurs," said Mike Binko, Startup Maryland co-chair, to a group of HCC students, faculty and staff shortly after stepping off the bus. "And what calls attention better than a big yellow bus?" added Julie Lenzer Kirk, fellow Startup Maryland co-chair and director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
Together, the duo logged hundreds of miles during a month-long trek across Maryland, stopping at 13 locations — including two community colleges — in the name of entrepreneurism and innovation. At each stop, select entrepreneurs were asked to come aboard the bus, where they recorded a brief pitch of their business idea in front of a film crew. At the end of the tour, the pitches pitches were uploaded to YouTube (UPDATE: Click here to view the video submissions from HCC students), where viewers voted for their favorite entries. Eight finalists were also selected by a panel of investors to present their pitch at a statewide conference in November, with the top two entries moving on to the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge, where they can win up to $100,000 in grants and other business services to fund their startup. To view the complete list of finalists, click here.
In all, eight HCC entrepreneurship students climbed aboard the bus to make their pitches, but not before receiving advice from adjunct instructor Latoria Brent. "Be confident in your product" exclaimed Johnson, who launched her own successful startup, Next Brides, in 2012. "But remember to have fun. This is your business and only you can sell it." Also offering encouragement was President Kate Hetherington. “Howard Community College is a place that supports entrepreneurship and innovation across campus,” she said, “so I’m thrilled to see so many students here to get experience in developing a business idea and learning how to pitch it.”
"Pitch Across Maryland" ended its state-wide tour September 27 at Under Armour's worldwide headquarters in Baltimore. To learn more about Startup Maryland and the "Pitch Across Maryland" tour, visit www.startupmaryland.com. To learn more about HCC's entrepreneurship program, click here.
Students who delivered pitches include:
Tae “Emily” Kim
Hunter Tessier and Thomas Lah