Gaston College contest will offer entrepreneur $10,000 for business

An entrepreneur with a winning idea can walk away with $10,000 to help them launch a small business.

Fifth Third Bank along with community colleges, including Gaston and Cleveland, will offer the top prize in its ’53 Ideas Pitch Competition.

Ideas can be submitted at through May 31 by anyone in the following counties surrounding Charlotte: Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union.

Judges will review the submissions and select the top 53 pitches.

“Judges are looking for ideas that are innovative and doable,” said Greg Smith, Gaston College’s vice president for economic and workforce development. “It has to be something someone could manage as a small business while matching the economy of the area, it can be online or face-to-face.”

Top entrants will receive a $50 award, as well as the opportunity to advance in the competition.

Training and coaching on pitching, financing, forecasting, and general business will be available to every participant, even if they do not make the top 53.

These free resources will be offered by small business centers located at community colleges throughout the southwest region, including Central Piedmont, Cleveland, Gaston, Mitchell, Rowan-Cabarrus, South Piedmont, and Stanly. 

After the training period, the top 53 entrants will participate in a closed virtual pitch event, where the judges will narrow the field down to 10.

The top 10 will receive $250 each and go on to compete on a virtual stage for the top awards: first place receives $10,000, second place earns $5,000, and third place receives $2,500 in seed funding to help turn their ideas into a viable business. 

The deadlines for the competition are as follows:

  • June 11- Top 53 finalists are announced.
  • July 19 – 53 finalists prepare for final pitch and top 10 finalists are selected.
  • July 28 – Top 10 are announced.
  • August 12 – Final pitch day: Top 10 compete for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

The ’53 Ideas Pitch Competition originally began in 2019 through a collaboration of South Piedmont Community College and the Fifth Third Bank. 

“Fifth Third Bank was interested in helping entrepreneurs and local businesses, especially minority business owners,” Smith said. “Fifth Third originally put up the money which is where the ’53 comes from.”

The competition welcomes business ideas from residents across the Southwest region.

Individuals have 53 seconds to pitch their idea in form of a video submission that may be uploaded to Those that plan to enter must fill out basic information and submit a video as well. 

“So that everyone who wants to enter can be included, if someone doesn’t have technology to submit an entry they can visit their local small business center to access a computer to enter,” Smith said. 

Reach Janiya Winchester at 704-869-1842 or [email protected]