Students put their business ideas to the test

Lila Derakhshanian, a photography major, presents her business plan for her cyclist clothing brand Alt Kit to a panel of judges on stage in the Robert B. Moore Theatre.

Inspired by the reality television show “Shark Tank,” Orange Coast College’s own version of the show, called Pirates Plank, held its third annual event on April 4, giving students the opportunity to win cash prizes, mentorships and internships at the OCC Maker’s Space.

Started by business professor Mark Grooms, the event is designed to help prepare students for the future when they will need to present business plans to investors and give an oral presentation about their service or products in hopes of getting funded.

“It’s a thrill to me that we still have students coming up here in front of a crowd and talking about their baby,” Grooms said. “It’s not easy to present and be judged on something you’ve worked so hard on.”

Six students presented their business plans to a panel of three judges and an almost packed Robert B. Moore Theatre. The Film department was present with video cameras set up across the theatre, adding to the mounting pressure the students faced.

Lila Derakhshanian, a photography major and winner of the Most Innovative award for her business Alt Kit, which will make cyclist attire that doubles as business attire, said she had been sitting on her product idea for a while and decided it was time to actively pursue it.

“I still have a long way to go in creating my business but to present in front of a panel of judges with such amazing experience in terms of building a business is invaluable to us,” Derakhshanian said.

Abby Diaz, a 29-year-old business administration student, won the Most Likely to Succeed award for her business plan Rapid Tees, which hopes to be the Uber or Lyft of screen-printing shirts. Judges were impressed at the core concept but wanted to see more solid financial information about how she planned to turn a profit.

Diaz will have access to a technology-based mentor as part of the prize which she says will help get her idea off the ground.

“These events are great because I would have never had the opportunity to be asked these types of questions, especially not in front of the spotlight. It made my head spin a little but it’s really good practice,” Diaz said.

Other students presented ideas on sustainable streetwear brands, beach tennis supply shops and iPad tablet bed mounts. All participants had strong drive and believed in their products and services wholeheartedly and the judges could tell. The panel used their time after the presentations to critique and make suggestions for students in the future.

Diaz and Derakhshanian told future students to be prepared if they want to walk the plank next year.

“Start as early as possible into looking at business plans for successful companies and practice your pitch,” Derakhshanian said.

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