Student entrepreneurs to pitch investors at StartUP FIU’s Pitch Day

By Ceylin Arias/Staff Writer

Students will be given the opportunity to put their business skills into practice and present their business ideas and models to potential investors on Tuesday, May 9, during StartUP FIU’s Pitch Day.

The event will be held in the GC ballrooms at the Modesto Maidique campus from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is part of StartUP FIU’s Empower Accelerator program, which guides students to become their own bosses, according to Renata De Weert, a mentor of the program and the founder and CEO of Innovae Group.

During the 14-week program, participating students attend 30 presentations and workshops, take part in critical mentoring and business advice, and present their required weekly deliverables in preparation for Pitch Day, according to StartUP FIU’s website.

As a mentor, De Weert has enjoyed being able to answer questions and discuss her own personal business experiences, which she describes to be a mixture of perseverance and passion.

“Having your own business does not necessarily mean you work less, you have to work just as hard and sometimes even more,” she said. “You’re supposed to feel passionate about your own goals and what you hope to achieve…”

When starting a business, De Weert said, it’s important to consider the opportunity that may be in front of you and, when possible, to take it.

“In my case, the reason I started doing logistics [was] because a customer asked me to since she thought no one was doing it correctly. Though I started with an exact vision of what I wanted to do, I didn’t have an exact plan of how the business was going to operate,” said De Weert. “A lot of the students were having issues with just that, not knowing how to shape their business model and their plan, but honestly speaking, when you put yourself out there for the first time, you never have a clear picture.”

De Weert advised her mentees over their business model plan and said that while their plan on how their business will operate doesn’t have “to be written in stone” before starting, they also have to understand that not everything’s going to go the way they had initially expected, especially as first-time business owners.

Carlos Blanco, another mentor for the Empower Accelerator program and founder of various businesses including Pigs On the Roof, the Big Kaboom, and vice president and managing director of various others including Uplevl, echoes De Weert’s sentiment.

Blanco admits that coming up with an idea can be excruciating and finding a way to solve the problem can be even more frustrating. The learning process, according to Blanco, becomes even more challenging when new entrepreneurs have to decide whether or not they have a good idea and if there will be anyone who would want to invest in their idea.

“You have a lot of people thinking of ideas and people investing in these ideas and that’s where it becomes more difficult for new people who want to start off on their new business,” said Blanco. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I want to sacrifice an unknown future for an unknown dream?’”

Blanco says that mentoring for the program was simply an extension of what he has always loved doing: giving back to the community, especially to youth and young adults, who, he believes, will be the ones shaping the future of entrepreneurship.

“The most rewarding part was watching an idea take form from what it was initially, a mass of clay and then later on, seeing it sprout into an idea that investors would want to invest in,” said Blanco.

Entrepreneurs also won’t necessarily be interested in a student’s’ GPA or their involvement in school, according to Blanco, because their interests lay in turning ideas into a money-making business instead of where you are in your school’s status quo.

“Along with wanting to pursue your own idea, you also have to consider, ‘Will I take safety in return for a paycheck or will I decide to risk that paycheck?’” said Blanco.


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