Southeast’s Engagement Center Announces LaunchU Pitch Competition Winners

The Economic and Business Engagement Center at Southeast Missouri State University presented two $375 cash prizes, provided by course sponsor First State Bank and Trust Company, Inc., to Eric Starzinger, of Jackson, Missouri, and Trevor Spencer, of Sikeston, Missouri, first and second place respectively in the pitch competition component of the LaunchU entrepreneurship training course. 'I was referred to this program by a previous participant and LaunchU provided me with the knowledge and tools necessary to start and run a business,” said Starzinger, of Starzinger Craft & Design. “The facilitation team opened my eyes to how much is involved with entrepreneurship and how to do it for myself. For this I am grateful and would recommend the course to anyone looking to strike out on their own.' LaunchU is a five-week hands-on course that coaches aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs through the business planning process to determine business feasibility, including the actual development of a professional, Small Business Administration-approved business plan, pitch and financial forecast. At the end of the recent cohort held at the University’s Sikeston Regional Campus, several of the class participants competed with their pitches in front of a judging panel comprised of local business professionals. “The pitch competition was the culmination of all the hard work LaunchU participants put in over the last five weeks developing feasibility plans,” said Gabrielle Penca, project coordinator for the Engagement Center. “It was amazing to watch the evolution of each business concept from the first night of class to the pitch competition where each entrepreneur displayed the confidence and acumen they’ll need to impress potential investors, lenders and partners. We have high hopes for them as they move forward with opening their businesses and for some, including Eric, as they expand their current businesses.” The competition’s first place prize was a package valued at $5,375 including $375 from the class sponsor First State Bank and Trust Company, Inc. and pro bono services provided by BOLD Marketing. Enrollment is now open for the next LaunchU, sponsored by the Isle Casino, April 17-May 15 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Economic and Business Engagement Center at 920 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. Interested participants and sponsors are asked to enroll at For more information, contact Project Coordinator Gabrielle Penca at (573) 986-6085 or