Business ideas impress judges in San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge

jholland@modbee.comMarch 6, 2014 


    What: San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge

    Who: People with business ideas in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador and Alpine counties

    Prizes: Winner will receive $7,000 in cash and $10,000 in business services such as accounting, legal advice and marketing. Runner-up will get $3,000 in cash and $4,000 in services.

    When: Round 1 took place Wednesday night, with eight of 16 entrants chosen for the semifinals, which will be at 5 p.m. March 26 at the Stockton Golf & Country Club, 3800 Country Club Blvd. The evening will start with five-minute presentations to a panel of judges and the audience. The same night, the four finalists will answer questions and take part in a simulation involving a challenging business situation. The winner and runner-up will be named at the end.

    Spectators: Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Admission includes light appetizers; a no-host bar will be open. Dress is business casual; the club forbids denim.

    More information is at

Eight people have advanced in a startup business contest with ideas such as propane tank covers, salad-growing kits and gun vaults concealed by artwork.

The quarterfinals of the fifth annual San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge produced eight semifinalists – four of them from Stockton and one each from Modesto, Lathrop, Sonora and Mariposa.

They are vying for a total of $24,000 in cash and business services. The semifinals and finals will take place March 26 at the Stockton Golf & Country Club, the site of Wednesday night’s round.

The eight were chosen by a panel of expert judges and the audience, à la “American Idol.” They are:

• Mark Coons of Instant Access IPS in Modesto, who came up with a device to safely lock and conceal a shotgun, rifle or smaller gun behind artwork in the home. The vault can be opened quickly by a thumbprint scan or a keypad.

• Don Smith of Sonora, whose RockOn propane tank covers look like outcroppings of rock.

• Nathaniel Montgomery of Lathrop, creator of a reusable bag tie.

• Kristaphor Hooton of Mariposa, who entered “harvest-at-home microgreens.”

• Cesar Mora of Stockton, with a mobile app for personal health trainers.

• Earl Brown Jr. of Stockton, with a cosmetic car care program.

• Gabriela Satvaldiyev of Stockton, with apparel designed for children with special needs.

• Bertram Chatham of Stockton, with an idea for “homework centers.”

A quarterfinals team from UC Merced withdrew before Wednesday’s competition. It had entered a device that fit on drones and would be used to monitor forest fires.

The contest is sponsored by the San Joaquin Angels investment group with numerous partners in business, academia and economic development.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at or (209) 578-2385.

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