CobraVenture Pitch Showcase Names Rebecca Smith as Winner
Parkland CobraVenture Names Student Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner Rebecca Smith's business plan Mobile Matrimony; weddings on a smaller scale or budget, was years in the making and became a reality at this May's CobraVenture Pitch Showcase.
A single parent, Smith's desire to start a business had been put on hold until her son graduated from high school. When the time was right, Smith submitted her application to Parkland's CobraVenture program, hoping the program would guide her along the process.
Parkland's Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) held its fourth CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on May 15 in the Student Union, where Smith competed with seven other students. Smith won $3,000 in seed money sponsored by Murray Wise Associates, LLC.
“I absolutely adore my peers,” said Smith. “I was blown away by the ideas, motivation, and compassion that each of them brought to the table. We spent months together, listening to each other’s ideas, working through business plans, and supporting each other through the pitch,” she said.
The 2023 cohort includes second place winner Max Libman; third place winner Sophia Libman; fourth place winner Gia Macedo; fifth place winner Joetaro Wilson; and alumni award winners Diamond Wright, Derek Martin, and Mohamed Maamar.
Smith said, “I learned about the CobraVenture program through Mark Kesler's, Parkland College professor, Business 101 online class. He encouraged any student interested in starting a business to apply.”
The pitch contest highlights students from the CobraVenture student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2023. The semester-long accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship, featuring collaborative workspaces, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors.
Judging the competition was Damien Banks of OSF Healthcare, Carly McCrory-McKay of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Marissa Siero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Grainger College of Engineering, Lesa Brandt of Parkland College Foundation and Alumni Relations, and Mark Pelmore of Lincoln & Hill, Inc.
“What I enjoyed the most about the program is the wealth of knowledge the guest speakers brought to each workshop,” said Smith. “They were all in our shoes at one point in their lives, it was amazing to see how they took an idea and built it into a successful business,” she said.
"Parkland’s CobraVenture program helped me with my business planning,” said Smith. “It allowed me to interact with individuals in all aspects of business including legal, financial, research, and presentation skills. I would absolutely encourage others who are looking to start their own business to participate.”
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. CobraVenture is a collaboration of the Office of the Vice President for Communications and External Affairs, Parkland College Community Education, and the Parkland College Foundation.