By Samantha Smith
The Excellence Training Center at Youngstown State University is hosting the Penguin Shark Tank from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 26 in the auditorium of the Williamson College of Business Administration.
The ETC, the WCBA, the Small Business Development Center, the Apex Accelerator and the Youngstown Business Incubator created the event for students interested in entrepreneurship.
Jackie Ruller, director of the ETC, said the Burton D. Morgan Foundation donated $10,000 to sponsor and support the event. $2,000 is being used to set up the event, while the other $8,000 will be dispersed between the students pitching their business ideas.
“We’re using about $8,000 of the $10,000 just purely to give out grants or — we’re calling it — business investments to YSU students,” Ruller said. “Students will pitch and then the judges will decide how much money they get based on their budget that they present and their idea.”
Ruller said five applicants will be contacted to pitch their business ideas for the event in front of a panel of judges, or in other words “sharks.” Depending on the amount of applicants, the number of students pitching their ideas could increase to 10.
The “sharks” for the event include CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator Barb Ewring, former first lady of YSU Ellen Tressel and YSU alum Mason Green.
Ruller said students can still receive a business investment even if they don’t want to pitch an idea during the event.
“Students can apply to pitch an idea at the Penguin Shark Tank or if they don’t want to do that, they can apply for a micro grant through our online application process. So either way, they can pitch or not, but they still have an opportunity to get business investments,” Ruller said.
This is the first year for the event and Ruller said she hopes to hold the event every year.
“We’re calling this the inaugural year, inaugural event. It depends on the success of the event and if the [Burton D.] Morgan Foundation chooses to fund us again, or if not, maybe the university would have funding that they would support the event,” Ruller said.
Ruller said she wants the event to be fun for the audience by supplying music and food, as well as an award for the audience to vote on.
“It’s going to be a fun event. We’re going to have music, we going to have selfie stations, food and of course door prizes. So we absolutely encourage participants to bring their family, friends because we’re going to have a fan favorite award too. So anybody watching or in the stands can vote for their favorite [pitch] and then the winner for that — the person who gets the most votes — will get $500,” Ruller said.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the ETC and the Penguin Shark Tank event, visit its webpage.