Speaking Engagements

Immokalee Foundation’s annual Shark Tank featured business leader judges

“I was blown away by the thoughtfulness and maturity of the students involved in this program.”
– Michael Feuer, cofounder and former CEO of OfficeMax

By Staff | on August 13, 2020

Special to Florida Weekly


The Immokalee Foundation students recently got the chance to demonstrate what they learned during its four-week entrepreneurship summer camp. Facilitated by Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Entrepreneurship, The Immokalee Foundation’s 2nd Annual Shark Tank students presented business startup ideas to local business leaders serving as judges for the competition-style event.

“I was blown away by the thoughtfulness and maturity of the students involved in this program,” said event judge Michael Feuer, cofounder and former CEO of OfficeMax. “They had to answer questions spontaneously, and their effectiveness speaks volumes about the invaluable training they received during this summer project.”

Judging the presentations were Mr. Feuer, now CEO of private equity and consulting firm Max-Ventures; Denise Cobb, an award-winning producer, broadcaster and station owner, and a founder of the Naples Children & Education Foundation; and Brian Rist, executive chairman of The Smart Companies, of which Storm Smart — Florida’s largest manufacturer and installer of hurricane protection and lifestyle products — is the largest subsidiary.


Though the camp experience had to shift from in-person to virtual instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students still had the impactful opportunity to work with FGCU faculty and community mentors to learn about the entrepreneurial mindset and how to critically examine problems to create innovative solutions.

“Students bought in, committed to the process and stayed consistent,” said Paul Evans, an FGCU’s School of Entrepreneurship instructor. “They identified problems that were relevant to them, and developed solutions and presentations that impressed the judges.”

During the camp, student teams created a sustainable business model using the Lean Startup Method to solve a problem they had identified, along with a prototype and pitch. On July 14, the teams pitched those ideas during the foundation’s 2nd Annual Shark Tank, which was hosted via Zoom.

The first-place winner was H.O.P.E – Helping Others, Positive Encouragement, presented by the team of Alejandra Ramirez, Angel Aguilar Calmo, Ashley Juarez, Esmeralda Perez Martinez, Jose Rosario Juarez and Marianna Briones. They each won $500 for their idea to create a support system to help high schoolers develop coping skills and build peer relationships to deal with mental health issues.

Second place was awarded to Game Go, the team of Ivan Vega, Jonathan Vega, Jovanny Cruz and Luis Ponce. They won $250 each for their pitch to provide a gaming service that doesn’t require internet connectivity, since poor Wi-Fi connections can cause problems with updates or large downloads.

The third-place winner was The Future of Families, the team of Eduardo Chavez, Elvis Velasquez, Kener Matias and Lizbeth Huapilla. They were awarded $100 each for their idea to provide resources to help immigrant families with basic needs during their transition to life in the United States.

“Each team member had a role in the presentation and handled themselves with such skill and determination during the questions from the judges,” said Ms. Cobb. “Having students participate in this real-life business situation not only teaches them essential skills they will need to succeed, but it also goes a long way toward boosting their self-confidence. I have no doubt that these students can now visualize college and career pathways they previously thought were unattainable.”

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org. ¦

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at [email protected].