City College hosts ‘Shark Tank’ contest for student entrepreneurs

David Fletcher, Staff Writer

City College hosted its annual “Get Real Shark Tank” competition Friday and featured an array of award-winning student entrepreneurs vying for a $10,000 prize. 

The format of the event mirrors the popular show, giving the contestants an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors. 

All of the students who participated in the contest went through the Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge, which aims to celebrate entrepreneurship by empowering individuals seeking to start a business with the necessary resources and insights required. 

Three students entered the spotlight to present the judges with their fledgling businesses, and how they might expedite their dreams with the prize money. 

First up was Heather Luikart, the founder of Peregrin8 and the creator of a travel product that serves as a hybrid between a backpack and a headrest. 

Next was Jake Zander, whose business Footsouls makes cushions that can fit into Converse shoes, adding a heightened level of comfort. 

Last was Joe Dattilo, whose company Dattilo Custom Leather Goods carries on a family legacy of crafting high-end leather bags. 

Julie Sampson, the director of the City College Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has worked intimately with all of the students who presented. 

“What I love about this group of students is that all so clearly embody the entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “They combine their passion and their hustle into making excellent products.”

The panel of investors was comprised of prominent members of the Santa Barbara business community who provided constructive criticism and asked the kind of hard-hitting questions that anyone trying to receive funding must be prepared to answer. 

The CEO-Elect of Women’s Economic Ventures Kathy Odell offered some insight as to why she chose to participate in the event. 

“I’m a serial entrepreneur so I’ve been where each one of these young founders is now, and know there are many challenges they face,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to share that knowledge with a new generation.”

Each of the contestants expressed their gratitude that a program like this exists at City College and attributed the success they have found with their respective ventures to the program. 

The winner of the event was Jake’s business FootSouls. He said that he’s going to utilize the funds generated from his victory to produce another foot cushion for Vans Shoes and strengthen his marketing presence on social media. 

“I’ve been lacking the financial resources to take the next step, now I have the chance to really put my ideas into action and hopefully inspire a lot of people along the way,” he said.