SMC Team Earns Top-15 Finish in First Try at Business Pitch Competition

SMC Team Earns Top-15 Finish in First Try at Business Pitch Competition

Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that one of the keys to their success is their willingness to take a chance and put themselves out there. One group of enterprising SMC students did just that and earned a top-15 finish in the SC Innovates statewide business pitch competition for their effort.

Six students from the SMC Trep Club – Pioneer Entrepreneurship Club – banded together to form Team Hypeman for the state competition. The team pitched their idea for Hypeman, a professional development program they could sell to colleges and individual students to better prepare graduates for life after college.

Their business plan and presenting skills earned them a trip to the semi-finals and a place among the top 15 programs from more than 70 teams across the state. The SC Innovates Statewide Student Pitch Competition is a program by the South Carolina Department of Commerce and the South Carolina Research Authority to promote entrepreneurism during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

“Our team was ecstatic to hear about our placement in the semi-finals,” said Kahleag Terry, an SMC junior. “We all worked long, hard hours to make sure every requirement was fulfilled.”

Terry, along with junior Kalista Pedersen, led the team and presented the Hypeman pitch to the judges. They were joined by junior Alberto Hernandez and three freshmen Shameya Graham, Sergey Culbreath, and Hannah Autry in developing the idea.

“Everyone worked really hard to make Hypeman the best it could be, so I can say I was happy with our performance,” Pedersen said. “We did our best, exceeded our own expectations, and that’s what matters.”

Facing off against much larger schools and programs from around the state, the team was encouraged to pursue the competition by SMC Business Department Chair Dr. Jonathan Keisler. He told them there was no reason they couldn’t succeed with a passion for their idea.

“I am just so incredibly impressed with them. The students on the team ranged from freshmen to juniors, but they just gelled so quickly,” he said. “They practiced countless hours and really got it down to a science. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Keisler helped revive the Trep Club in 2015 for students interested in business startups and learning more about the entrepreneurial spirit. The club meets every Wednesday at 7 a.m. for presentations, discussions, and now to plan for the next pitch competition. He continues to encourage the members to innovate.

The members of the pitch team were so invigorated by the SC Innovates experience that they are planning to develop their own competition to encourage younger students to follow their passions. They plan to develop and host a competition for teams from high schools in Spartanburg County.

“We are very excited to host our own competition for multiple levels of education and the overall Spartanburg community,” Terry said. “We hope to use our experience at SC Innovates to create the foundation for SMC’s pitch competition to build on.”

And their dream doesn’t stop there.

“They are hopeful to create an ‘entrepreneurship festival’ with SMC at the center of it,” Dr. Keisler said. “The event would feature guest speakers, local entrepreneurs, and, of course, a pitch competition.”

Leave it to the members of the Trep Club to come out of a business pitch competition with an idea to create their own business pitch competition. With their success in their first try at SC Innovates, nothing seems far-fetched for this group of entrepreneurial Pioneers.

Student sitting on steps
SMC’s Team Hypeman participants in the SC Innovates business pitch competition are (front row L to R) Alberto Hernandez, Kiara Rodriguez, and Shameya Graham; (back row L to R) Hannah Autry, Sergey Culbreath, Kalista Pederson, and Kahleag Terry.

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