Fourteen University of the Virgin Islands students in eight teams will compete for $60,000 in business startup funding during the final round of the first 13D Student Entrepreneurship Competition scheduled for Friday, May 4, on the University's St. Thomas campus. The prizes - $30,000 to first place, $20,000 to second place and $10,000 to third place - are designed to help team members launch their own businesses based on plans they devised while participating in the competition.
UVI's School of Business is inviting the entire Virgin Islands community, especially business owners and government officials, to attend the competition, according to UVI Business Professor Dr. Glenn Metts, who shepherded the competition through its first year.
"If you own a business and you're looking for an investment opportunity, you should be at this final round and listen to these presentations as a business person," Dr. Metts said.
The competition will include a morning session beginning at 9 a.m. in the first-floor conference room of the UVI Administration and Conference Center on St. Thomas. It will include formal business plan presentations by each team. The presentations are limited to 20 minutes per team. Judges will make their final decisions while the participants are having lunch. The winning teams will be announced and prizes and other awards will be presented beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The would-be entrepreneurs' business plans range from tourism to agriculture, and personal services to locally oriented entertainment, with a touch of high tech.
"Only three of these teams are going to win money. But every one of these teams, in my opinion, deserves to be funded," Dr. Metts said. "They've worked hard. They have much better business proposals than most business launches have. They are vetted. They've gone through four presentations. They got feedback and improved ... (got more) feedback and improved (yet again). Their ideas have been tested by fire through the competition at UVI."
Based on $5 Million Gift
The 13D Student Entrepreneurship Competition was announced to UVI students in September of 2011. The initial competition - which was open to all undergraduate and graduate students at UVI - drew a field of 72 students in 21 teams. It was funded by a $5 million gift to UVI from Kiril Sokoloff, an investment strategist and entrepreneur who founded 13D Research, which is based on St. Croix. Along with annual entrepreneurship competitions for students, the gift is intended to establish and endow the Kiril Sokoloff Distinguished Professorship, the University's first endowed chair, and to initiate an Entrepreneurial Speaker Series.
"This is an exciting moment in the life of UVI," said UVI
President David Hall. "This competition and the other
entrepreneurship programs represent the future of this University
and the Territory. If we can't develop more experienced and
sophisticated entrepreneurs from the Virgin Islands, then we will
not meet the economic challenges of the future."
Dr. Hall said the Sokoloff gift "is enabling UVI and the Virgin Islands to address one of our most critical needs through this competition."
The finalists were selected by a team of judges, which included representatives of the local community, the local business community and the University. There was also significant participation in the judging process by employees of 13D. The eight teams who made it to this week's finale have each received an initial prize of $500.
"Every time these students presented (their business plans) they were evaluated by mentors and entrepreneurs, who provided them with feedback on the quality of their plans, and what was lacking," Dr. Metts said. After initial presentations, in November 2011 and January of this year, 16 of the teams were selected to continue to the first competitive round, held in February on St. Croix. "The atmosphere at this first competition in St. Croix was electric," he said. "They knew that half of them were getting cut. It was amazing..."
13D Entrepreneurship Student Competition Finalists
Teams and their student members who qualified for the competition's final round are:
- The Ultimate Party - Annette Bevans and Francillia Francis
- BMWA Paintball - Benaiah Nicholson and Marvin Didier
- Customer Service Training Center - Aclesia Scotland and Shamir Joseph
- Lab Equipment Rental and Leasing - Heba Abdallah and Ghadeer Taha
- Virgin Island Adventures ATV - Vandel Percival
- Virgin Fresh Egg Farm - Patricia Rogers
- Nannies to the Rescue - Sharona Pickering, Yanique Smith and Kimberlee Smith
- 360 Skate Center - Soshana Pemberton
Entrepreneurship at UVI and Beyond
Dr. Metts said the University is extremely pleased with the response to this first competition. In addition to the student interest, he said he's received inquiries about the program from other parts of the Eastern Caribbean and from as far away as Virginia. Additional aspects of the entrepreneurship effort at the University will include offering all UVI students the opportunity to declare a minor in entrepreneurship, beginning in the Fall Semester of 2012. The Entrepreneurial Speaker Series at UVI, funded by the Sokoloff gift, is also slated to begin this year, with the first speaker coming in the fall.
Additionally, Dr. Metts said there are plans to begin a 13D High School Entrepreneurship Competition designed for high school students in the territory. This program, along with a high school course on entrepreneurship that was developed by the Department of Education with local teachers, is expected to serve as a stepping stone to introduce younger students to entrepreneurial thinking and ultimately connect them to the UVI entrepreneurship program.