Washtenaw Community College awards veterans $20,000 during pitch competition

Winners take home cash prizes for small business ideas

Judges at the 2018 Pitch@WCC. Photo | Washtenaw Community College

ANN ARBOR – Six veterans took home a collective $20,000 for their business ideas after Washtenaw Community College’s Veteran Business Pitch & Showcase Night.

The pitch competition was hosted at the Ann Arbor community college’s Entrepreneurship Center with the help of Grand Valley State University MVE-Labs in early December.

First place winner 24-year-old Phillip Burtell received $10,000 for his start-up, Elixir CNC. The small Saline-based manufacturing company offers automated manufacturing services. Burtell’s prize money will help him boost productivity and shorten production time with the installation of a heat-treat oven and an air compressor, college officials said.

The Army veteran and WCC student, along with other competition participants, worked with coaches for three months during a free session of Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab (MVE-Lab). The lab offers hands-on mentoring and education for entrepreneurial veterans.

Veteran Business Pitch & Showcase Night participants then pitched their ideas to the public and to a group of business leaders at a showcase, officials said.

Additional winners split another $10,000 for their ideas. Winners included:

  • Mrs. Pruitt’s Gourmet CHA CHA: Linda Kay Pruitt
  • Veterans Sanctuary Foundation: Jacob Inman
  • The Great American Pet Rescue: Suzette Dexter
  • Aligned Exhibits: Tia Sunshine Dye
  • B-Posi+ive: Giuseppe Del Giudice

“There were a variety of fantastic projects. And the stories of each and every veteran are incredible. It was truly an honor to work with them,” said WCC Entrepreneurship Center director Michelle Julet in a release.

The WCC-based MVE-Lab was the first time the program has been focused on veterans in Ann Arbor.

“I was always passionate about manufacturing,” Burtell said in a release but added he has put his business ideas aside at first.

After gaining experience in the industry at Leapers, he enrolled at WCC and signed up for the pitch competition. He was able to show off his fabrication skills during the event.

“I thought what might set me apart at the showcase was that I’m already working on this business; it’s more than an idea,” Burtell said. “I still have a lot to learn, but I was able to show what my shop looks like, who my customers are.”

The Entrepreneurship Center offers research help, workshops and other business resources to entrepreneurial community members between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Those with questions can contact the center at 734-249-5880 or at entrepreneurship@wcnet.edu.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.