By Dudley Brown

Megan Santos ’23, a biology major from Concord, North Carolina; and Kate Timbes ’23, a studio art major from Columbia, South Carolina; placed first in the Terrier Startup Challenge with their pitch for Talking Pieces.

Will Beringer ’26, an undeclared major from Montgomery, Alabama, placed second with his pitch for 334 Marine.

Holden Erwin ’25, a business economics major from Greeleyville, South Carolina, placed third with his pitch for Sawtooth Game Calls. Erwin also received the audience choice prize.

It’s common for students signing up to compete in the Terrier Startup Challenge to appear a little sheepish when expressing interest in the competition.

While they have ideas for businesses, some begin questioning if their dream could become a viable venture.

Sarah Butler, Launch Program manager, says some students become reluctant because others are operating businesses like theirs, or they question whether they could compete in the challenge since they aren’t business or finance majors.

“We’re addressing that fear that comes with entrepreneurship and debunking those myths,” Butler says.

The seventh annual Terrier Startup Challenge takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Mungo Student Center’s McMillan Theater. Eight pitches for businesses by nine students will be heard during the contest. The students are competing for $10,000 in startup funding.

Teams will be given 3.5 minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. This year’s judges are Ralph Settle ’04, principal with Beacon Property Services; Pontheolla Mack Abernathy, co-owner and operator of Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens; and Joshua Riley ’11, partner and chief operating officer of Sully’s Steamers.

“We’re entertaining business ideas and helping them become a real and tangible thing,” Butler says. “Students experience the pressure to succeed with their academics, and adding a business to all of that is a lot. Many try to start a business with minimal guidance, and we try to provide the support and framework so the students can work on their dreams and gain an entrepreneurial mindset.”

During the contest, judges and audience members will hear presentations delivered with confidence by students who took a closer look at their business models and evaluated where they needed additional help.

Carolina Woody ’25, an undeclared major from Spartanburg, is pitching Carolina Style Clean, a small cleaning service with affordable prices.

“I’m being introduced to depths of business management and detail that I haven’t even considered yet,” Woody says. “I’m learning cost analysis, pricing and competitive analysis. I just originally planned on it being a tiny business to help me through school.”

Holden Erwin ’25, a business economics major from Greeleyville, South Carolina, is pitching Sawtooth Game Calls, a business that he’s starting with his brother that involves hand tuning calls used by hunters.

“Creating my presentation and slide deck has been great for me to get to an even better understanding of the business and marketing aspect of the company rather than just design and creation,” Erwin says. “I have gotten to dig into some details and think about the company differently than I have before.”

That’s the goal.

“We hear from lots of people saying what they wish they knew earlier,” Butler says. “Those are the things we’re covering with Terrier Startup Challenge.”

Students competing in the challenge received an opportunity to be the clients of students taking Liberal Arts Studies 101: Social Media, a class being taught by Dr. Kimberly Hall, associate professor of English. The 16 first-year students in the class met with the challenge’s participants to develop Tik Tok videos to promote each venture competing in the challenge. The videos are being shared through the Career Center’s Instagram account leading up to the challenge.

“I believe this project helps students because it allows them to become critical media producers,” Hall says. “Because this is a real-world project with many variables and different stakeholders, they’ve had to be flexible, creative and professional. I have been so impressed with their work throughout the process and I am looking forward to seeing the final videos.”

Discussing the production of those videos and providing critiques on the final product is another valuable experience provided by the challenge.

“By the end of this, it builds their confidence and gets them exposure or customers and motivates them to keep going,” Butler says.