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New businesses get $15,000 boost

Seven proposals to fight Valley unemployment through social enterprise split $15,000 in development funds during the 2014 Spark Tank Business Plan Contest sponsored by the Center for Community Transformation at Fresno Pacific University.

Representatives of churches and other faith-based groups, community members and FPU staff and faculty filled the BC Lounge on FPU’s main campus November 14 for a “pitchfest” followed by judging and award presentations. The premise of the contest was The Shark Tank TV show, where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to venture capitalists in hopes of getting support.

In its friendlier version, the CCT was able to support all of this year’s finalists. As exciting as the business opportunities are, the increased involvement of nonprofits in providing jobs is very rewarding. “Local churches and agencies are seeking to address unemployment in interesting ways,” said Randy White, D.Min., CCT executive director and associate professor of community transformation at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.

First Place: $3000 awards

Evangel Home Cleaning Service: 5 Gals Cleaning
The business will specialize in cleaning houses being made ready for the real estate market. The will use eco-friendly products whenever possible. Evangel Home Director, Gerre Brenneman gave the pitch. Check out their website.

FACE Inc. /Rock Pile Yard Services
Rock Pile will provide water wise landscaping while training, mentoring and guiding the marginalized and hard to employ population. Check out their website.

Light-House Recovery Program “Bling-Wear”
The Light-House is a Christian recovery program offering residential, transitional and day program for women and women with children. Their enterprise will create and sell “bling wear” products—t-shirts, hats, book bags, etc.—to create revenue to offset the costs of the ministry.

Second place: $2000 awards

Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministry (FIRM) Translation Services
FIRM will provide high quality and affordable translation services to businesses, government entities, churches and non-profits for print media, social media, events and other needs. Their mission will provide refugees with materials so well translated that they will have access to information about pertinent issues regarding them and their families. FIRM Executive Director Zach Darrah gave the pitch. Check out their website.

Young Men’s Initiative (YMI)
YMI Coffee and Pastry Bar:Founder/Exec. Dir. Eddie Valero pitched the plan to open a coffee and pastry bar inside an established restaurant, Martha and Me in Dinuba. This social enterprise benefits the at risk youth in the Dinuba/Cutler-Orosi area. Check out their website.

Third Place: $1000 awards

Bethany Inner City Church
Nano-and Microloans for Enterprising Downtown Families: Bethany ICC has already had success in making small loans to their congregation members for the purpose of enterprise with 100 percent pay back.

Inspire Destiny Training Services
Marta Rios Escargena and her team equip, train, coach and consult individuals and organizations. Check out their website.

Participants presented proposals in five-minute segments, followed by five minutes of Q&A from a panel of FPU business professors and local business people. The two-hour event, the second annual edition of the social business plan contest, began at 2:00 p.m.

Judges were John Kilroy, Ph.D., dean of the FPU School of Business; Brice Yocum, J.D., former business professor and now director of FPU regional centers; Jim Mueller, vice president of Umpqua Bank; Chris Roggenstien, president and CEO of the information and technology company Forward Advantage; Bryan Feil, director and CEO of Neighborhood Industries, a thrift and recycling company; Shelley Verwey, local business woman working in agriculture and longtime FPU advisor; and Jeremy Hofer, director of the Fresno Community Development Financial Institution. Feil and Hofer are FPU graduates.

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