Parkland College announced its inaugural Student Entrepreneur of the Year Monday night.
Elizabeth Allen of Mahomet has won top prize at the first-ever CobraVenture Pitch Showcase, which took place in the school's Student Union. Competing with eight other Parkland students in her cohort during the event, Allen will now receive $3,000 in seed money to start her business, Central Illinois Vinyl.
“I felt happy to win, but the entire experience was rewarding from start to finish,” Allen said. “I enjoyed getting to know the people in my group as well as the folks at Parkland College who worked hard to make it happen for us.”
Through Central Illinois Vinyl, Allen plans to provide local and short-run custom-cut vinyl records for musicians in and around central Illinois. She plans to produce the records through a lathe-cut process instead of a pressed process, allowing for high-quality stereo sound with a short turnaround and no minimum order, according to Allen.
“Vinyl records are the only physical format growing in music sales currently, and we wish to serve our scene and community by providing an affordable service,” Allen said in her pitch statement.
Judges for the pitch competition were Dan Marker of Hickory Point Bank, Carly McCrory of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland's Fine and Applied Arts department, Joan Dixon of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, Eric Wilson of Serra Ventures, and Marissa Siero of University of Illinois Gies College of Business.
Monday's contest highlighted students from the CobraVenture program's pilot student accelerator lab, which launched in January. The semester-long CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors.
“I really loved getting to put together all the building blocks of what it takes to run a small business,” Allen said about her CobraVenture experience. “I also enjoyed listening to business owners talk about their individual journeys toward opening their startups; they were inspirational.” Allen plans to transfer to the University of Illinois in the fall.
CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, vice president for communications and external affairs.
[Top image: Elizabeth Allen displays business startup at showcase; lower image, l. to r.: Marc Changnon, program facilitator; Stephanie Stuart; Allen; and Foundation Executive Director Tracy Wahlfeldt.]