May 25, 2019  

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Southern Entrepreneurship Program Crowns State Competition Winners

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SEP 2019 State Competition winners. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

The Southern Entrepreneurship Program at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) wrapped up another successful year with the 12th Annual SEP State Competition held May 8 at the Trent Lott Center on the University’s Hattiesburg campus.

Each year, the SEP program begins with between 500 and 700 students from high schools across the state.

“The students are immediately challenged by the real sacrifices required by business ownership and come to a watershed moment,” said James Wilcox, director of USM’s Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education. “From that initial cohort of students, about half continue to the SEP regional trainings and half of these advance to the SEP regional qualifier competitions. The top 20 student pitches are selected to advance to the SEP State Competition.”

Students compete within two separate divisions based on the status of their business. Those who already have customers and are generating revenue compete within the Startup Division, while ideas still in the research phase compete in the Concept Division.

Winners included the following:

Business Plan Awards

Concept Division

1st Place - Helping Hand (Garrett Johnson, Madison Central High School)

2nd Place - Anti-Package Theft (Mark Troyer, Harrison Welch, Madison Central High School)

3rd Place - Morris Funeral Services (Rotrik Morris, New Hope High School)

Startup Division

1st Place - Encouragement through Clothing (Malcolm Bell, Gulfport High School)

2nd Place - Glossy Boss (Erica Gates, Biloxi High School)

3rd Place - Drama Boutique (Yasmin Colon, Leland Career and Technical Center)

Industry Awards

USM College of Business and Economic Development SCHOLAR Award

Anti-Package Theft (Mark Troyer, Harrison Welch, Madison Central High School)

Georgia-Pacific Leaf River Cellulose INNOVATOR Award

Helping Hand (Garrett Johnson, Madison Central High School)

The First, A National Banking Association MULTIPLIER Award

Yasmin Colon, Leland Career and Technical Center

Making Money Now! Award

(Annual SEP award given to one student for best demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit by launching a business with $10 or less. The award criterion evaluates each student’s Return on Investment (ROI), venture sustainability, and overall creativity in product development and marketing.)

Yasmin Colon, Leland Career and Technical Center

"The SEP Competition is one of the greatest opportunities and contributions ever made to our youth and to our communities. This program reminds our students that their talents are worthy of financial gain and are valuable to our economic growth. When they win, we as a society win. Future Business Leaders of America at Biloxi High School believes so much in this program that we started to support it financially this year, and I personally plan to continue supporting this program after retirement,” said Clementine Fantroy, Biloxi High School instructor.

Echoed Michelle Robinson, instructor at Madison Central High School: “This opportunity gave my seniors a new perspective on their engineering design and development capstone projects. Instead of just developing and building a product that works, they had to develop something that was marketable. They quickly learned that these are two very different distinctions. Several were inspired to think about patenting or marketing their products in the future. We definitely want to be involved in the SEP again next year.”

Event sponsors included The University of Southern Mississippi College of Business and Economic Development served as the lead sponsor for this year's State Competition. Additional support was provided by Georgia-Pacific Leaf River Cellulose and The First - A National Banking Association.

This year's State judges included representatives from the National Federation of Independent Business, Innovate Mississippi, The First - A National Banking Association, Trustmark National Bank, Hancock Whitney Bank, Red Door Marketing Agency, The University of Southern Mississippi College of Business and Economic Development, the USM Small Business Development Center.