Noted Sacramento businessman Dale Carlsen, who, along with his wife, is namesake of the Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, spoke at the 2017 GEW festivities. Katy Carlsen is among this year’s presenters. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Budding entrepreneur Adrian Pinon, a communications studies major, is no stranger to “pitching.” He once attended a Shark Tank casting call, hoping to pitch his business idea to potential investors in prime time.

Pinon didn’t land a spot on that reality TV show, but after going through pitch boot camp at Sacramento State’s Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, he’s primed to take his events-discovery app to the Spark Pitch Competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), Nov. 13-16.

Events scheduled for GEW all support the notion that entrepreneurship is more than simply starting a business. It’s also a way to solve problems, effect change, and improve people’s lives, organizers say.

Consider StudyMatch, for example, which will be presented at the Spark competition by Thoa Nguyen, a math major with a concentration in statistics. It is a peer-to-peer platform designed to help students find compatible study partners – creative, simple and a problem-solver.

Nguyen, Pinon, and their fellow student competitors each will have three minutes to make their pitches, “selling” a panel of equity investors on their ideas. The Spark Pitch Competition begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in a classroom adjacent to the Carlsen Center, Library 1520.

All participants receive an hour of expert mentoring, and cash prizes of $2,000 and $1,000 will go to the top two finishers.

“That’s a small amount in a pitch competition,” says Katherine Cota, the Carlsen Center’s executive director. “Small amounts of money awarded at this level keep them just hungry enough so that they work hard to grow their business and use that money to launch them to the next level.

“Real businesses will come out of this week.”

Among Spark judges is Dale Carlsen ’84 (Business Administration), founder of Sleep Train Mattress Centers. During GEW 2017, Carlsen and his wife, Katy, announced a $6 million gift to Sac State to establish the center that bears their name.

Katy Carlsen, a physician, will represent the Ticket to Dream Foundation during a GEW panel discussion at noon Tuesday, Nov. 13, in the Terrace Suite at The WELL. Scheduled to join her is Esteban Nunez, Sacramento coordinator of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. Students who attend will be asked to sign a pledge to volunteer at a nonprofit.

Among other GEW highlights is a talk by Nicholas Haystings ’16 (Mechanical Engineering), cofounder of the nonprofit Square Root Academy and one of the Sacramento Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” for 2018.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is partnering with Sacramento State’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 10-16) to host the panel discussion, “From Homeless to Entrepreneur,” at noon Friday, Nov. 16, in the Carlsen Center. Among the speakers are Sac State alumni who started a successful business after experiencing food and housing insecurity as students: Nhut Chiem (American Family Homestays) and Christina Preston (Shoes 4 Sacramento).

The only event scheduled away from the main campus is StartUp Sac’s Warm-Up Pitch, a demonstration competition for community members, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Sacramento State Downtown, 304 S St. Cota, representing the Carlsen Center, is among the judges for the sold-out event.

Sacramento State’s seven academic colleges, and the College of Continuing Education, all are GEW participants this year. – Dixie Reid

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