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Eight move on in San Joaquin business startup contest

A reusable piñata, a lightweight raft and six other ideas have moved on to the second round of the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge.

An expert panel and the audience voted for these startups after hearing two-minute pitches Wednesday night. They will vie April 8 for $20,000 in cash and professional services.

The sixth annual contest is for people who live or work in Stanislaus and seven nearby counties. It is sponsored by the San Joaquin Angels investment group with help from several businesses and economic development organizations.

The chosen eight:

▪ Elias Ruiz of Hughson, whose plastic foam raft can be used for fishing and other water activities. He was entered automatically after winning the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge, a single-county contest, last year.

▪ Erin Bell of Modesto, who created a portable health care device as part of a business called This One’s Mine! Ceramic Design.

▪ Octavio Valencia of Merced, who entered a piñata that can be reused and bear personalized messages.

▪ Cole Przybyla of Cole Video in Sonora, with a 360-degree camera.

▪ Frankie Arburua of Stockton, with naturally raised rabbits from Frank’s Basque Family Farm.

▪ Ashley Drain of Stockton, with a mobile app and website for locating food carts.

▪ Lakhvir Singh of Stockton, with a mobile surveillance system from Hammer Head Protection Inc.

▪ Niles Jackson of Stockton, with a chalk line tool from Golden State Striping.

The second round will start with five-minute presentations to the expert panel and audience. Four finalists then will take part that night in a “simulated challenging business situation” and answer judges’ questions.

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

COMING UP

What: Round 2 and finals of San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge

When: 5 to 8:30 p.m. April 8 at Stockton Golf & Country Club, 3800 Country Club Blvd.

Spectators: Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Attire is business casual; no denim.

More information: www.sjchallenge.com

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