Parkland CobraVenture Names Student Entrepreneur of the Year
CobraVenture Pitch Showcase Names Jeane Breiland as Winner
Parkland College’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year set out to accomplish a very personal mission at this May’s CobraVenture Pitch Showcase: restoring the community hub her grandparents founded in 1946.
Successor to the Village of Camargo's Thompson's General Store, which her family owned and operated for over six decades until its closure in 2016, Jeane Breiland plans to revive the local grocer into Opal's on Main, a neighborhood hot spot featuring local produce, meats and cheeses, curated antiques and artisan goods, handmade candies, a breakfast and lunch cafe, and much more.
Parkland's Entrepreneural Network (PEN) held its third CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on May 23 in the Student Union, where Breiland competed with seven other students in the 2022 CobraVenture cohort for prizes such as $3,000 in seed money, $1,000 in monetary technology, and six months of free mentoring from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business.
"I am super excited about winning the competition!" Breiland said. "Honestly, it was very surprising to me that I won, because my cohort classmates are fantastic public speakers."
The 2022 cohort includes second place winner Muriel "Mimi" Balende; third place winner Nathaniel Carsten; fourth place winner Brad Holt; and alumni award winners Delma Cobb, Nephtalie Salem, Leslie Carlson-Danner, and Shaersti Anderson.
A self-identified planner, Breiland is "especially excited" to begin working with the Gies College of Business. "This opportunity will help me to set the business up in a successful manner before we open the doors of Opal's on Main," she said.
And with the rest of her prize, she's gearing up for the hard part. "We've already started to clean the store out as we prepare for the restoration of the interior," she explained. "Now the work begins to hopefully find grants that will offset the cost of returning the outside and inside of the store to what it once was when my grandparents opened for business in 1946."
The pitch contest highlights students from the CobraVenture student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2020. 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 Sacred Heart Medical Center, Carly McCrory-McKay of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Marissa Siero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland’s Fine and Applied Arts department, and Mark Pelmore of Lincoln & Hill, Inc.
"I am so thankful for the whole experience I had in Parkland's CobraVenture program," Breiland said. "I've met so many knowledgeable professionals. I'd absolutely recommend anyone interested in opening their own business sign up this 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. 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.