Eight business startups head into the final round of the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, where a live audience and panel of expert judges will decide Wednesday who will walk away with a share of $24,000 in cash and business services.
The event is a mash-up of "American Idol" and "Shark Tank," where competitors pitch their business ideas and show off their entrepreneurial savvy, hoping to sway the votes of both the judges and audience.
But contest organizers hope the contest's ultimate winner is the area economy.
"The goal is to help stimulate economic development in the region by encouraging these aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and start their businesses," said Mark Plovenick, president of the San Joaquin Angels, an angel investment group that stages the competition.
"We know that most new job creation around the country is from startup and new businesses," he said.
Plovnick, whose day job is director of economic development at University of the Pacific, said a survey of the 200 or so former challenge participants found that a significant number had gone on to start businesses. "That's encouraging; that's exactly what we hoped to see."
The contest is open to residents of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and adjoining Mother Lode counties.
Those headed into Wednesday's competition and their business ideas are: Joshua Benjestorf of Stockton, waterproof, magnetic electronics connectors; Rich Ison of Manteca, high-security window and door screens; Cheryl Peterson of Stockton, a clamp to improve mobility for postoperative chest patients; Vanessa Gabriel of Stockton, a shopping website aimed at millennial women; Crolie Lindsay of Modesto, a hiking staff holding survival gear; Jamie Norwood of Oakdale, a website to find U.S.-made products; Pamela Louie of Tracy, a device to secure a pet water bowl in a car; and Sandra Sanchez of Riverbank, soups in tea bags.
The event will run from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Stockton Golf & Country Club, 3800 W. Country Club Blvd., Stockton.
Open to the public, the cover charge is $15 in advance or $20 at the door and includes light refreshments. For more information or to register to attend, go online to sjchallenge.com.
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