Clovis News

Valley business dreams become reality

The fifth Dream it, Win it competition for student entrepreneurs happens today, with a $10,000 prize and the attention of investors at stake.

Five teams will compete in a reality-show style showdown, pitching their business ideas to real investors.

The businesses they'll pitch range from a college taco vendor to a cleaning system for solar panels.

The event is organized by the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State and the Coleman Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on entrepreneurship education.

Participating students can come from any college. Teams must have at least one student member.

"It showcases a lot of entrepreneurial talent here in the Valley, but more importantly it motivates students to become engaged and move forward with their business ideas," said Lyles Center director Tim Stearns.

The first-place winner gets $10,000 that was donated to the competition. Second place gets $4,000, and third place gets $1,000.

Over the years, the competition has awarded $70,000 in start-up cash.

Some of the businesses in the competition are up and running. Some have fallen by the wayside.

Last year's winner, Timothy Snyder, used his prize money to launch his company, Sunspot Industries.

The business sells skateboards, accessories and parts, and Snyder does repairs from a trailer parked at the Clovis Rotary Skatepark on weekends.

He and his business adviser, Josh Long, hope to expand, placing trailers at other skate parks around the Valley and eventually opening a store.

The prize money paid for the trailer, inventory, licensing and insurance.

For this year's competition, the 20 plans submitted have been whittled down to five finalists. All are from Fresno State, except for the El Colegio Taco team from Fresno City College. The finalists:

*Simple Solar Cleaning Systems, an automated cleaning system for residential solar panel installations.

*PenGuin Boards, an online skateboard brand operating since 2005 that sells and distributes premium skateboards that can be ordered from a cell phone.

*El Colegio Taco, a mobile food vendor that provides nutritious, fresh, made-to-order tacos for evening students and workers on community college campuses.

*Emerging Market Exchange, a Web-based company providing an electronic marketplace where companies can list their company for sale confidentially and professionally.

*Community Fun Pack, a company using local coupon pack sales as a way for nonprofit organizations to raise funds.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the first-place prize was $15,000. Also, due to incorrect information provided to The Bee, the story also incorrectly reported the second prize was worth $3,500 and the third prize was worth $1,500.