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April 12, 2013

Graduates of 6-week class to make final pitches

Athens — Graduates of a 6-week class for prospective startup businesses offered by the Small Business Development Center and the Athens Economic Development Corporation will make their final pitches for grant money at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday.

The presenter judged to have the best business idea, and the ability to make it work, could receive a grant of up to $30,000.

“It’s been a wonderful process,” Small Business Development Center Director Mike Ellsberry said. “These people were so attentive, and asked a lot of great questions.”

Preliminary round presentations were made April 9, with the judges Carlos Padron, Chris Russell and Dr. Jerry King hearing from six contenders. Four of the applicants have been invited back for a last chance to impress the panel.

Ellsberry said one of the challenges was to get the presentation into a business-plan format. Some of the presentations were not as polished as you would see from a professional business, but all represented solid business ideas.

Some of the businesses requested the full $30,000, AEDC President and CEO Brian Malone said. Others requested less than that.

Ellsberry said some of the students attended the course knowing they would not be eligible for the grant because they did not meet all of the criteria. Two of those were located outside the city of Athens. A couple of others were not prepared to go into business at this time, but wanted the information as a preparation tool for the next year or two.

“And there was at least one who proved that his business idea was not feasible, because there was not a need for what they thought they were going to do,” Ellsberry said.

Ellsberry said he hopes to repeat the course in the future, tweaking it a bit based on what he learned during the first go-round.

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