When they established Sumter’s Future Entrepreneurs Competition in 2015, local educational leaders recognized the importance for students to have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship outside of the classroom and put their project management skills to the test.
An annual Shark Tank-style event organized by the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Lake and Sumter counties, and the Sumter School District, the competition now in its sixth year gives students the opportunity to win cash prizes for their innovative ideas, while allowing them access to local business men and women who advise them not only on their individual ideas, but mentor them to become better entrepreneurs.
“Our Superintendent, Rick Shirley, wanted to give students an opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and allow their creativity to flourish in another avenue other than just in class,” said Emily Keeler, a science teacher at Wildwood Middle High School.
Competition finalist Calvin Patrick Hoopes was inspired to join the 2021 competition after watching his sisters go through the process only two years prior. Already operating his own lawn service business, Calvin’s Cuts, and now creating a detailing business, he’s realized through this experience how little he knew before. This opportunity to connect with local leaders has allowed him to quickly grow his business sense.
“[Sumter County] has given me the opportunity to meet with some great people who have shown me the ropes on how to better my business,” said Hoopes. “These mentors have helped me a lot in every aspect of my business pursuits and ideas.”
In similar form, finalist Jaylyn Charpentier said she’s always wanted to be her own boss, which she hopes to make a reality by taking home the grand prize of $1,000. Using the prize money, she would bring her in-trend hypoallergenic jewelry business to life by creating a website, equipped with a purchased domain, and potentially her own branded merchandise. Charpentier also credits Sumter County for the resources and feedback she’s received from countless local business owners to take her business dreams to the next level, while also giving her a safe space for collaboration and healthy competition among her peers.
Keeler, who also serves as Wildwood’s science fair coordinator, stresses that extracurricular activities such as this competition allow students a real-world glimpse that is unmatched in its ability to truly excite and prepare students for what lies beyond the classroom.
“It allows our students to be creative and learn how to manage an idea into becoming a reality. We hope this gives them an opportunity to broaden their ideas and give them the tools to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs in the future.”
Winners of the 2021 Sumter’s Future Entrepreneur’s Competition will be recognized at the Wildwood Community Center Thursday, April 29, 2021, at 6 p.m.
Live finalists have a total of five minutes to present their business idea to a panel of judges, who will determine first and second place prizes of $1,000 and $500, respectively, for the students to use toward their business venture, according to Casey Ferguson, the supervisor of Career Technical and Adult Education at Sumter County Schools. Display finalists placed in third, fourth or fifth place during the online competition and will display their business posters at the event. They are eligible for $100 prizes for use toward their business ventures and are permitted to enter next year’s competition.
Sumter’s Future Entrepreneurs Competition 2021 Finalists:
South Sumter High School
- Abigail Derby Wine, Mix and Mask
- Cori Riddell, Solar Lightning
- Destiny Barnes and David Barnes, Barnes and Go
- Auston Chisenhall, RAWK Baits
- Raelyn Simmons, Bee Bags
The Villages Charter School
- Elisabeth Ngo, La Beautique: Facial Rejuvenation and Revival
- Olivia Williams, You Spin Me Right Round
- Cylie Reeder and Grace Walding, Sumter County Creations
- Rebecca Spangler and Ashley Delezenne, S.O.A.R.: Student Organized Academic Resources
- Magdalen Stansberry, Holiday Décor to Your Door
Wildwood Middle High School
- Jaylyn Charpentier, Charpe Style Jewelry
- Calvin Patrick Hoopes, Speed Detailing
- Caleb Pickens and Austin Peavy, Got Gas?
- Nicole Vega Soto, Choco-Latte
- Randy “RJ” Mears and Kaleb Diaz, All In One Gym