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Two LaGrange students win Business Pitch contest

Malik Ellis and Alex Brown, 11th-grade students at LaGrange High School, won the high school division of the sixth annual SEED Center Business Pitch Competition.

Their business concept, Runner Eats, an app-based company, aims to provide concession stand services to sports fans and concertgoers at the push of a button.

The young men are always brainstorming ways to make money, Ellis said, and he discovered the competition while searching for details on how to appear on “Shark Tank.”  

“I see America evolving more around technology,” he said. Ellis, a football player, added, “People don’t want to wait in long lines and miss plays.”

After tossing around a few ideas, they developed the Runner Eats concept and “ran with it,” Brown said. He added, “We’re thinking big picture — colleges and arenas.”

Adrian Wallace, executive director of the SEED Center’s business incubator, met the two while giving a presentation for LaGrange University, which provides collegiate learning experiences to its students.

He said he was impressed by their enthusiasm for business and that his positive impression of the two continued when they made their pitch at April’s competition. It is difficult for even adults to stand before a crowd, said Wallace, but the young men were “composed” and “knew their numbers.”

“It’s encouraging to see such young people,” he said, because “you often hear so much bad.”

The Business Pitch Competition seeks to “encourage entrepreneurship” in Southwest Louisiana, said Wallace. Like the television show “Shark Tank,” participants don’t need to have a full-scale business plan but rather a “concept.” Judges then evaluate the concept and gauge its potential for success.

Winners receive a $3,000 prize, shared workspace in the SEED Center, and basic accounting and marketing services through the business incubator.

Data show that within five years most small businesses are no longer operational, Wallace said. But, he said, 84 percent of businesses that undergo an incubation process are still in operation.

The business incubator provides business counseling, coaching and training while allowing businesses to operate within the SEED Center until they are more sustainable and able to stand on their own.

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