BLUEFIELD COLLEGE AWARD-WINNING BUSINESS STUDENTS EMANUEL RINALDO-MILLER (LEFT) AND RODRIGO HUARACHI CRUZ (RIGHT) WITH DR. SHARON PEROT, CHAIR OF BC’S DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS.
Sponsored by the Sales Executive Club of Bluefield, West Virginia, the “Shark Tank: Student Edition” contest was designed for entrepreneurs, ages 15-20, with a unique business idea or invention. Contestants were asked to submit their original ideas to the Sales Executive Club, and following a review of the entries, five finalists, including Rinaldo-Miller and Cruz, were invited to give presentations on their business ideas and answer questions from the “Shark Tank.”
“We hope that with these young men and women presenting to us their ideas, we’re able to give them a financial contribution to help get their business started, which is going to create jobs here,” said Nathan Hendrick, president of the Sales Executive Club. “We all know that small businesses create jobs, and the Sales Executive Club is all about promoting small business in the area.”
Of the five finalists, three were selected as winners of the “Shark Tank” and were awarded $750 (first place), $500 (second place) and $250 (third place) for startup funding for their proposed business. Rinaldo-Miller, a Bluefield College freshman from Bredaryd, Sweden, took home the $750 top honor for his idea to develop a drone photography company in Bluefield.
“Drone companies are becoming extremely popular, so why not start it here,” said Rinaldo-Miller, who also plays varsity soccer for Bluefield College. “I want to be able to reach both ordinary individuals and companies. The services would be taking photos and shooting videos, but every job would be different as the possibilities are endless with a drone.”
Rinaldo-Miller described his company as “simple,” “affordable,” and for all customers, from college students to senior citizens. Named E-Blaze Aerial, the proposed company, he said, would serve customers interested in capturing unique and extraordinary aerial photos and video of personal or professional sites and structures, special occasions, sporting events, and other activities.
“I really enjoyed the competition,” said Rinaldo-Miller. “It was a great way for students to get more confidence in their ideas, practice speaking in front of people, and get contacts. It was a great experience, and the fact that I, a few other students, and a professor already have started to see big interest for a drone company shows how good a Shark Tank competition could be. We are all very excited to find out if Bluefield is ready for a drone company.”
Cruz, a freshman from La Paz, Bolivia, proposed the idea of an alternative non-carbonized drink product called Grain Refreshment. Despite being his first presentation speaking his second language, he finished among the top five finalists.
“I am happy to have had this opportunity,” said Cruz, who also plays varsity tennis for BC, “because I learned many things I did not consider relevant.”
Since its formation in 1954, the Bluefield Sales Executives Club has played a vital role in advancing salesmanship in Mercer (WV) and Tazewell (VA) counties in an effort to make the area an important retailing-wholesaling service center. The “Shark Tank: Student Edition” competition is the most recent initiative by the club to further that cause.
“This was a great opportunity for our students to develop exciting new business proposals and pitch their plans to a panel of professional business owners,” said Dr. Sharon Perot, associate professor and chair of BC’s Department of Business and dean of the College of Professional Programs. “This type of venture enables our students to apply what they learn in the class.”
The Department of Business at Bluefield College offers undergraduate students a unique opportunity to experience sound academic instruction delivered by faculty who have both the educational training and professional experience to offer a practical perspective to individuals embarking on a career in the business world. Touted for its small class sizes that allow personal interaction and one-on-one mentoring with professors who are fully invested in the lives of students, the Business Department offers a major and minor in business administration with concentrations in accounting, management, information technology, and web and mobile development. The department also offers a certificate program in entrepreneurship and small business management.
“Our students majoring in business administration are gaining invaluable professional experience,” said Dr. Perot, “in internship programs and through participation in locally sponsored entrepreneur contests, such as the ‘Shark Tank: Student Edition.’”