With $1,000 in prize money, the stakes are high for Orange Coast College’s third annual Pirate’s Plank, an on-campus competition pitting would-be student entrepreneurs against each other in a “Shark Tank” style match-up.

The challenge is open to students enrolled at OCC, but that is the only requirement.

Mark Grooms, a business instructor, brought his version of the competition to OCC. The basis of the idea comes from the hit TV series “Shark Tank,” where contestants pitch their products to a panel of judges.

He said that unlike the televised version, Pirate’s Plank focuses more on constructive criticism for a more welcoming environment.

Grooms said he started the challenge hoping to inspire students and give them an opportunity to chase their dreams. The prizes are a bonus as well, with $500 going to most likely to succeed and $500 going to the most innovative idea.

“It’s all kinds of discovery. You go down this path and you don’t really expect something to happen and then something wonderful happens,” Grooms said.

The event opens the door for possible connections for students looking to go into business. One of the judges will be from First Bank and one of the judges will be from Movandi, a broadband solution provider, while other judges are yet to be determined.

Ayden Ayer, now a junior at Long Beach State majoring in communications, was awarded most innovative idea last year for his invention, the E-chop, a device allowing you to smoke marijuana and nicotine simultaneously.

Standing on a stage and presenting an idea to an audience can be a nerve-racking experience, but Ayer offered advice to calm those nerves.

“Prepare and do it thoroughly. As long as you know you did the work, it helps with the anxiety. Go balls to the wall with it and you should be fine,” Ayer said.

Pirate’s Plank was designed as a stepping stone in hopes that students would take the necessary steps afterwards to pursue a career in business, Grooms said.

Michael Ambrose, 29, founder of the company Texptrade, a company designed to help students text their textbooks to other students on the same campus, won an award in the very first Pirate’s Plank. He said he continues to grow his business and plans to have it up and running in the fall.

“Preparation for Pirate’s Plank is what inspired me to pursue this business venture. I don’t know if I would be where I was now without it (Pirate’s Plank),” Ambrose said.

Ambrose was also able to give some advice to students who are worried about the daunting task of putting what’s in their head out into the universe. “Start now. Don’t wait until after college to start. Take little steps — they don’t have to be big grand leaps,” he said.

Applications are open until March 5 or until all 25 spots are filled.

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