Parkland CobraVenture Names Student Entrepreneur of the Year

Parkland CobraVenture Names Student Entrepreneur of the Year

Parkland College announced its Student Entrepreneur of the Year on Monday, May 20

Winner Jaden Recker's business plan, Recker's Mowing Service, became a reality at this May's CobraVenture Pitch Showcase.

"I always knew I wanted to own my own business," the Gibson City resident said. "Around the same time my father mentioned starting a mowing business together, Marc Changnon came to my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class and told us about CobraVenture."

Parkland's Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) held its fifth CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on May 20 in the Student Union, where Recker competed with five other students. Recker won $3,000 in seed money to get his business started.

“Working full time, attending school full time, running a business, and being a good husband and father is very taxing both physically and mentally,” he said. “Winning Student Entrepreneur of the Year was much needed validation that all my hard work is paying off. The boost in confidence is just the thing I need to push through and continue on this journey."

The 2024 cohort includes second place winner Lucius Tran; third place winner Grace Bailey; fourth place winner Tania Spates; and fifth place winners Romanic Hall and Joe Smith. Recker expressed his admiration for his pitch contest competitors.

“Every student in the 2023–2024 cohort had a great business idea and deserved to win just as much as I did, if not more," Recker said. "I truly feel that we started out strangers and ended up family.”

The pitch contest highlights students from the CobraVenture student accelerator lab, which began in January 2024. 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 Madeleine Wolske, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation; Marissa Siero, associate director of entrepreneurship programming at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Grainger College of Engineering; and Julie Weishar, professor of communication at Parkland College.

“The thing I enjoyed most about CobraVenture was the network I grew throughout the program, including my fellow cohort, all the amazing speakers, and most importantly, Mr. Changnon, who has already had a huge impact on my entrepreneurial journey,” Recker said.

Parkland College thanks the following businesses and individuals for supporting CobraVenture's next generation of entrepreneurs: Busey Bank, Clanin Marketing, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business, It's a Wrap Automotive, ShawLuxe Premier Renovations, Libman Company, and Mark and Tammy Kesler.

CobraVenture is funded through sponsors, existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. CobraVenture is a collaboration of the Office of the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Innovation, Parkland College Community Education, and the Parkland College Foundation.

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