Competition challenges entrepreneurs

20 people will vie for start-up cash, services

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 31, 2013 

Starting a new business venture in a tough economy can be a daunting task — no matter how great the idea may seem.

Merced County residents with new business ideas will have the opportunity to apply for the fourth annual San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, which gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to launch their idea in an "American Idol"-style competition.

The challenge is presented by the San Joaquin Angels, an investment group that dedicates resources to new businesses in the start-up stages.

The competition will include multiple rounds where each participant's business plan will be judged by a panel of experts and the audience. A total of $24,000 is up for grabs for the winning entrepreneurs, including at least $10,000 in cash and $14,000 in professional services.

Last year's winner of the 2012 challenge, John Paoluccio, said the experience opened many doors for him.

"I was able to meet with marketing, legal, management and financial advisers who knew how to help a start-up business succeed and grow," he said. "We now have sales in Florida, Las Vegas, Canada and even Dubai."

Mark Plovnick, San Joaquin Angels president and University of the Pacific director of economic development, said the goal is to help develop promising start-ups and companies in the early stages.

"We hope that the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge will help stimulate business development in our region by encouraging aspiring local entrepreneurs to pursue their goals through an entertaining business plan competition that offers mentoring, cash prizes and access to investors," Plovnick said.

Anyone interested in participating should complete an entry form online by Sunday by visiting

From the received entries, 20 participants will be selected to compete in round one of the San Joaquin Challenge.

Participants will be given two minutes to make their presentation before a panel of judges, and the audience will trim the 20 hopefuls down to the top eight, who will move on to round two.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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