Finalists Prepare for the Last Round of the Big Idea Entrepreneur Competition

Most people have a big idea floating around in their dreams. The motivation to dig in and the funds to take action, however, can be obstacles to embarking on an entrepreneurial journey. The Big Idea Competition is sponsored by Catawba College's Ketner School of Business and co-hosted by Dr. Pamela T...

School of Business

Most people have a big idea floating around in their dreams. The motivation to dig in and the funds to take action, however, can be obstacles to embarking on an entrepreneurial journey.

The Big Idea Competition is sponsored by Catawba College's Ketner School of Business and co-hosted by Dr. Pamela Thompson, Dean of Ketner School of Business and Mr. Brannon Williams, CEO of Art's Cube. The program is designed to get local creative juices flowing and to provide seed money to budding entrepreneurs.

Last year, Thompson, who started her own I Promise Project (featuring motivational bracelets), approached Mr. Ralph Ketner, co-founder of Food Lion, to consider the idea of a campus-based entrepreneurial competition.


"I was extremely fortunate to experience starting my small business with the support and advice from mentor Mr. Ralph W. Ketner," said Thompson.  "I have learned more from that experience than I ever could have imagined and enjoy sharing lessons learned with others."

Rowan County Chamber of Commerce has, in recent years, worked with RowanWORKS to encourage entrepreneurial development and support for existing small businesses. Members of the Chamber provided support and encouragement for developing Catawba's "The Big Idea" project. 

Elaine Spalding, President of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, said Catawba's business plan competition ties in nicely with the community's EntreRowan program to promote entrepreneurial development.

"This community has a rich history of entrepreneurial firms like Food Lion, Cheerwine and Integro. We want to do everything we can to encourage and support the next generation of entrepreneurs," Spalding said.

Last year was the first year of the competition with 22 participants and eight finalists. This year brought in 50 participants in three categories: high school, college student, and adult. Fourteen entries were selected for the 2015 final round.

Entrants came from various walks of life and with a wide range of "big ideas." Some projects were in the field of technology while others included arts, education, or retail focuses.


Shaun Cammack, a junior music major at Catawba College, said he saw "a niche that needed to be filled." He hopes to pilot his idea for a mobile app at Catawba College.

In the adult category, Dawn Holcombe of China Grove, works at Catawba in the housekeeping department and makes homemade white board erase solutions. She estimates that the savings in the building she covers would be approximately $100 per year. 

"If the entire campus used the homemade solution, that would be quite a savings," said Holcombe.

Holcombe said she has been making her own healthier cleaning products at home for years. Her plan is to develop a prototype machine to do the mixing for natural cleaning products, candles, and lip balm. Her ultimate goal is to interest an investor to put her machine into production. 

"I hope others will be encouraged," said Holcombe. "It's not who you are. It's your idea."

The full list of finalists and their project proposals are as follows:

High School (ages 16 and up):

  • Baylie Hain – Bay's Paint Shop – Customized canvas paintings and private instruction or recreational group activities.
  • Cole Goodnight  - Greenway Growing Groups – outdoor team building programs with a focus on environmental education. 
  • Christopher Johnson - HeadFi – headphones and earbuds in vending machines in various venues.


  • Rhett Holoway – EmiField – social technology platform to highlight team successes and financial support as well as interaction between others on the team or in the field (golf focus for startup).
  • Dustin Deal – Make College Yours – online sales platform to provide better prices to college students. Advertisement generated income and business partnership with supplier of products at affordable rates.
  • Jacob Breig and Zach LaFavre – Mosquito Burrito – Mt. Airy-based restaurant featuring healthy burritos and a fun atmosphere. No current competition for burritos in the area.
  • Lincoln Anderson – SoundDown – new car download for computerized vehicle systems  to regulate stereo and audio systems to default to a preset volume level, tone setting, and station or input
  • Terrence Pruitt – The Caterer – food delivery system providing phone or text delivery of foods from restaurants without delivery strategies. Healthier options as well as reduction of drinking drivers.
  • Shaun Cammack – uniBeeper


  • Dawn Holcombe –Dawnlady – system to  make liquid detergents and toiletries with a melt wax feature for candles and lip balm with auto mix temperature control and a cool touch safety feature.
  • Matthew McCullough - mobile STEM modules with hands-on materials as well as all equipment needed to execute modules targeted for teachers and community volunteers to improve the educational system.
  • Gil Zino – Trivia - provides rich, instant, contextual, private mobile communications and tools for small groups for information sharing and emergency data distribution.
  • Perla Munoz - Vico's Creations – handmade foam molded flowers, dolls and other items for special occasions.
  • Dennis Lunsford – Your Kitchen Store and More - an upscale small kitchen appliance retail store located in Downtown Salisbury.

Finalists are all paired with mentors to fully develop business plans and to put together three-minute video proposals.

Mentors for 2015 include

  • Maggi Braun, RCCC, Salisbury
  • Heather Teeter, Sweet Meadow Cafe, Salisbury
  • Paula Bohland, Director, Downtown Salisbury Inc.
  • Steve Larson, TIAA-CREF, Charlotte
  • Dr. John Wear, Catawba College, Salisbury
  • Liese Sadler, Live Thread Studio, Salisbury
  • George Johnson, Carolina Aircraft, Greensboro
  • Aaron Goss, Esq., Salisbury
  • Robin Perry, Catawba College, Salisbury
  • Suzanne Bean, IBM, Charlotte
  • Jackie and Bruce Wilson, Fine Frame Gallery, Salisbury
  • Margaret and Nick Georgiou, The Palms Restaurant, Salisbury
  • Dr. Steve Hiatt, Catawba College, Salisbury

Top entries in each category are awarded $1000 for project startup costs, second place $500, and third $250. Funding for the contest is generously contributed by Mr. Ralph Ketner who also supported the 2014 pilot project for the Big Idea.

An awards ceremony is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 30th in the Tom Smith Auditorium of Ketner Hall on Catawba College's campus. Community members are welcome to attend.  

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