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Big Sell looking for a few good startup ideas

Big Sell audience members vote on entrepreneur presentations at The Big Sell in April at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville in 2016.

If you've got a brilliant idea for a new business, you can make your best pitch at The PNW Big Sell to try to scare up some startup capital.

Purdue University Northwest is bringing back its annual entrepreneurial pitch contest, sponsored by NIPSCO, from 1 to 4 p.m. April 27 at the Purdue University Northwest Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center at 7150 Indianapolis Blvd. in Hammond.

“We are happy to host our annual pitch competition that is not only open to Purdue students, but any person willing to share their unique vision and ideas” said Hulian Terrell, a student who will help stage the competition and judge contest entries.

Mont Handley from College of Technology's Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center and  Entrepreneurship Professor AJ Moran from the College of Business will co-chair the annual competition, which Purdue University Northwest's CEMC took over in 2017.

The national entrepreneurship contest was founded by Dushan Nikolovski in 2011 to promote innovation and a culture of entrepreneurship in Northwest Indiana. Long held at the now demolished Radisson at Star Plaza, the Big Sell has helped launch local businesses like Loopy Cases, Brace To Play and Pool Python. 

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It once offered $100,000 in prize money, drawing entries from all over the globe, but that was scaled back when it was placed under new management.

Purdue Northwest did boost the prize money by 50 percent this year. The first place winner now gets $7,500, second place $3,500 and third place $2,000. The Society of Innovators will chip in at least $1,000 additional dollars if the winner is from Purdue Northwest, Handley said.

"We have a dozen submissions already," he said. "We're never had this many this early. It's only February."

Any interested entrepreneurs should film their best two-minute pitch about their idea and then submit it by April 1 at www.pnw.edu/thepnwbigsellCMEC will help people develop and record their pitches.

The top 12 finalists will get to make public six-minute pitches with Power Point presentations at the April 27 event, where a panel will select the three winners. The panel will include serial entrepreneur Scott Massey, who won the Big Sell last year with his Heliponix company, which aims to grow fresh produce in a device the size of a dishwasher. At least 100 people are expected to be in attendance.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.