REEDLEY – Local youth interested in starting their own business have a chance to learn, grow and find investment opportunities through a pitch/startup competition coming to Reedley in the next few months.
Twelve- to 24-year-olds can begin their entrepreneurship journey through the Reedley LaunchPad Pitch Fest organized by Fresno Pacific University’s Center for Community Transformation (CCT). Through business planning workshops and a multistep competition, the CCT aims to give young entrepreneurs an understanding of what it takes to start a business.
“The hope and dream is to come alongside the already amazing work that is happening in Reedley around entrepreneurship within the college and school district and not just be a support to the entrepreneurship but help to lead,” Bryan Feil, CCT associate director, said.
The entire Reedley LaunchPad Pitch Fest event consists of three main parts: planning workshops, a business proposal application and a final business pitch competition. Entrepreneurs who make it through the entire competition will receive a cash award to invest into their business.
Feil said the hope with the event is that young people in the area will be able to see how they can use business skills to put their creativity to use and impact their community through eventual job creation.
“We’re hoping young entrepreneurs see that they have skills that they can add and create economic streams for their community,” Feil said.
All qualifying entrepreneurs can attend the planning workshops and submit their business proposals, but only some will be selected to pitch at the final competition. Feil said CCT’s goal is to have 10 business plans move on to the final event.
To qualify, applicants must be between 12 and 24 years old and be Reedley-area residents or have plans to open a business in Reedley.
Participants will be split into two age groups: juniors, which includes 12- to 16-year-olds enrolled in Kings Canyon Unified School District or Immanuel Schools, and young adults, which includes 17- to 24-year-olds who plan to run their business in Reedley.
Competition awardees will receive scholarships for and be required to complete Fresno Pacific’s 7-week business program, called the LaunchPad cohort, before receiving their monetary awards.
Feil said the application criteria is based on the LaunchPad program and includes a look at what kind of problem a proposed business would be solving, what the solution is and how the business will make money from that solution.
“We want to know with this investment, what will this help your business do, (whether that’s) startup costs to make products or marketing dollars to help share the word,” Feil said.
While exact award amounts depend on the total sponsorship funds CCT raises for Pitch Fest, Feil said awards could go as high as $1,000. He added that CCT already has up to $10,000 to invest in the award recipients but is continuously looking to grow the available funds through sponsorship opportunities.
More information about sponsorship opportunities is available on the CCT website.
Anyone interested in participating in Pitch Fest can attend a virtual or in-person workshop hosted by CCT at the beginning of November. The workshop requires registration online through Eventbrite, but is free to attend and will help participants get their ideas on paper, Feil said.
The virtual workshop is at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 over Zoom and the in-person workshop is at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in downtown Reedley at the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee building located at 1010 G St.
Entrepreneurs must submit their business proposals by the end of the day on Nov. 10 via a Google Form accessible through the CCT website. Feil said CCT will evaluate proposals and notify the contestants who have been selected to pitch at the final event by Nov. 17.
After those pitches are chosen, contestants will have the chance to practice their pitches on Nov. 30 and receive feedback before the main event.
The main event, which is open to all community members and is free to attend, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at 1010 G St. in Reedley. There, contestants will pitch their ideas to a judges panel, with awards presented at the end of the night.
Feil said the judges panel is not finalized yet, but will include local business owners, local city government officials and possibly a representative from the Reedley College Entrepreneurship Center.
Center for Community Transformation
The CCT at Fresno Pacific works with various community partners to facilitate community engagement and address the San Joaquin Valley’s economic, social and spiritual challenges, according to Fresno Pacific.
With the Reedley LaunchPad Pitch Fest, the CCT is looking to expand its engagement south of Fresno, into Reedley, Feil said. This is the first event of its kind the CCT has done in the Reedley area, though it has hosted a number of similar events for the Fresno area.
Feil said the CCT has had a program called Spark Tank for the last 10 years that has supported Fresno-based business startups with around $180,000. The businesses that they have helped launch include a plumbing contractor, a counseling center, product creations that are getting patents and even a barbecue sauce. The center has seen a 70% success rate of those businesses operating after their first year, “which is pretty phenomenal,” Feil said.
Their focus on a younger demographic and being open to any type of business is also newer, as the CCT has previously focused on fostering startups of social-enterprise businesses, which are businesses that seek to make a social good, Feil said.
The entrepreneurial energy in Reedley, along with the work that Reedley College does, is what made the center choose the area for this specific event.
“We want this to be community-driven within the town of Reedley, and it’s been really exciting to see the community support,” Feil said. “We can’t wait to see the creativity that the youth and young adults have in Reedley; it’s going to be exciting.”