Southeast’s Economic and Business Engagement Center Announces LaunchU Pitch Competition Winner


The Economic and Business Engagement Center at Southeast Missouri State University recently presented a startup assistance package to Dereck Evans of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, for first place in the pitch competition component of the LaunchU entrepreneurship training course.

The class participants were a very impressive group of entrepreneurs, said Steve Halter, president of the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce and class facilitator.

“I realize it is scary and takes a lot of faith to take the necessary steps to launch their own business, however the LaunchU program really dives deep into whether your business is a ‘go or no go,’” he said. “The progress these participants made during the last few weeks is phenomenal.”

LaunchU is an 18-hour 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 Smart Space of Poplar Bluff, several of the class participants competed with their pitches in front of a judging panel comprised of local business professionals.

“The pitches were all great, and it was difficult for the judges to decide, but I am pleased in their decision to award Dereck as the winner,” Halter said. “I wish all of the participants the best of luck and look forward to patronizing their businesses.”

The competition’s first place prize was a package including pro bono services provided by Smart Marketing; Duncan and Pierce Attorneys at Law; and a one-year of membership with the Greater Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce.

The recent cohort had six graduates who completed the course and participated in the pitch competition component.

The class schedule for 2018 is currently being developed. Interested participants and sponsors are asked to contact Project Coordinator Gabrielle Penca at (573) 986-6085 or