GSW student entrepreneurs present at second annual Hurricane Pitch competition

Published 10:21 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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by Chelsea Collins

Director of Marketing and Communications

Department of University Relations


AMERICUS, GA (April 24, 2024) – Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) hosted its second annual Hurricane Pitch competition on Tuesday, April 23 for entrepreneurial students with dreams of starting their own small businesses in the communities they call home.

Easton Cummings of Hoboken and Sylvester, Ga., a sophomore elementary education major, took home the grand prize of $7,500, which she will use to get her small business off the ground. Rollie Designs began when Cummings saw the need for high-quality, affordable custom jewelry and accessories. The business is named in honor of her and her late grandfather’s shared middle name – Rollie – as a tribute to him.

“I am immensely grateful to the GSW Foundation, Dr. Suzanne Conner, and the University for this invaluable opportunity,” stated Cummings. “This competition has helped grow my business as well as myself. It pushed me beyond my limits to achieve things I had no idea I was capable of. Nothing can compare to the feeling of having so many people believing in me and my business. This has truly been life changing and it is something I will never forget.”

Winning the People’s Choice Award was Solomon Motley of McDonough, Ga., a freshman pre-management major, who received $3,000 towards starting his small business, Legends in the Making. With his streetwear clothing brand, he hopes to inspire others to be their best.

Kendal Stokes, a junior communication and emerging media major from Columbus, Ga., was the third finalist. He presented Art Groove, an app-based platform that allows artists in all genres to connect and share their work.

“I really enjoyed working with these students as they shaped their ideas into actionable business plans and compelling pitches,” said Suzanne Conner, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing and competition organizer. “For me, each finalist is a champion. They’ve poured time and passion into turning their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. While I offered guidance, it was their dedication and effort that fueled their pitch. I incredibly proud of each one of them and excited to see what they’ll achieve next.”

These three pitches were selected from students across all disciplines who submitted business plans earlier this semester. Conner has worked with these students since fall, teaching them how to create business plans and polish the pitches over a series of one-on-one meetings.

Judges for the evening were three small business owners: Elena Carne, owner of T31 Apparel in Americus; Chase Burnfin ’15, CPA and M&A Controller for EIS Holdings; and Jess Sinclair, founder and CEO of J. Nicole Sinclair LLC and immediate past board chair of the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce.

The event was funded by the GSW Foundation through a grant, the Educational Leadership Fund, applied for by Conner as part of her Pope Professorship to foster entrepreneurship in women and minorities.