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$10,000 entrepreneur competition at Niagara University aims to fight hunger, poverty

LEWISTON – The event may have a Shark Tank-inspired theme, but the goal will be a much higher cause as a panel of community leaders determine the winner of EntrepreNU 2015, Niagara University’s poverty-focused entrepreneurship competition – and $10,000 in startup funds.

The panel will meet with students to hear their proposals at 3 p.m. Monday in the university’s Leary Theatre. The competition aims to find new, self-sustaining, innovative solutions to the poverty-related issues of food, hunger and nutrition that confront so many Niagara Falls residents.

Panelists are:

• Craig Avery, local entrepreneur and business owner;

• Dierdre Bartholomew, general manager of Sodexo, which provides dining and hospitality services at Niagara;

• Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster;

• Rep. Brian Higgins, D-26th District;

• Lisa Tucker, co-founder and executive director, Field and Fork Network.

The winning team will receive access to $10,000 in startup funds, plus the opportunity to raise additional funds and resources to implement their plans.

Each of the three finalists will have 10 minutes to present their plans, followed by a brief Q&A.

This is the first year this competition has been offered and nearly 100 students, forming 30 teams, registered. Students received assistance on how to develop a basic business plan and put together a business pitch. Each team prepared a brief video, a concept paper and business plan.

Participants attended a discussion on poverty and access to healthy foods, as well as a series on innovative thinking. They also met with members of the community to learn more about the realities and challenges they confront to put healthy food on the table.