Gaston College Small Business Center partners on the 2021 ‘53 Ideas Pitch Competition’

Gaston College Small Business Center partners on the 2021 ‘53 Ideas Pitch Competition’

Gaston College Small Business Center is excited to announce it will partner with Small Business Centers in the Southwest region on the 2021 “53 Ideas Pitch Competition” supported by Fifth Third Bank. The pitch competition addresses income inequality and equity through entrepreneurship by providing anyone with an idea access to the capital, training resources, and social connections needed to remove barriers and take an idea and turn it into a viable business. The top prize winner of the competition will receive $10,000 in seed money for a start-up business.

“Last year we opened the spigot and ideas came pouring in across the 10-county region. The community responded and the response to the 53 Ideas pitch competition was different. Contestants did not mirror the historical demographics of entrepreneurs,” said Renee Hode, regional director for the NC Small Business Center Network.

According to data from last year’s competition, more than half of the participants were women, more than half were minorities and by income level, the majority of were making less than $50,000 a year.

 “Over the years, we’ve worked with many small businesses with new and innovative ideas, but too often they’ve had difficulty in getting financial help to get their business off the ground,” said Greg Smith, Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development.

Studies show that four out of five entrepreneurs do not access bank loans or venture capital. Instead, their sources of funding are personal network, generational wealth or connections to networks. The 53 Ideas Pitch Competition exists to help lessen this inequality in entrepreneurship.

“The more resources we provide to nurture and grow these start-ups, the more diversity and sustainable growth these businesses can bring to our community,” said Smith.

The “53 Ideas Pitch Competition” is an open call for business ideas from residents across the region. Individuals will have 53 seconds to pitch their idea in the form of a video submission that may be uploaded to For open, inclusive access, if someone has an idea but does not have the technology to submit an entry they can visit their local small business center to access a computer to enter the competition. 

Judges will review the submissions and select the top 53 pitches. Top entrants will receive a $50 award, as well as the opportunity to advance in the competition. Training and coaching on pitching, financing, forecasting, and general business will be available to every participant, even if they do not make the top 53. These free resources will be offered by Small Business Centers located at community colleges throughout the southwest region, including Central Piedmont, Cleveland, Gaston, Mitchell, Rowan-Cabarrus, South Piedmont, and Stanly.

After the training period, the top 53 entrants will participate in a closed virtual pitch event, where the judges will narrow the field down to 10. The top 10 will receive $250 each and go on to compete on a virtual stage for the top awards: first place receives $10,000, second place earns $5,000, and third place receives $2,500 in seed funding to help turn their ideas into a viable business.

To learn more about the “53 Ideas Pitch Competition” or to upload a video submission by the May 31 deadline, visit 


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