Dominic Anzalone remembered how difficult it was for him to find off-campus housing when he attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The search was laborious and there were plenty of disappointments before he finally found a suitable apartment. It stuck with him and, after interning at some corporations, he knew what he wanted to do.
Two years later, the 23-year-old has helped more than 100,000 students on five campuses in Wisconsin and in northen Illinois find off-campus housing. As founder and CEO of Rent College Pads.com, he is looking to expand his company and its reach into Ohio and neighboring Minnesota.
So far, he has agreements with Marquette University, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern and UW-Oshkosh to help students find housing. His company currently has 70,000 units listed on his website.
Jennifer Conrad thought nine years as an employee of a medical waste management company was the experience she need to launch her own business in the field. Technically, she had the right idea, but she stumbled a bit to get it off the ground. She needed a simpler business plan and most of all investors.
With a little help, some confidence and a new business plan, she found investors and now is head of Environmental Health Concepts, a Kenosha firm. She has visions of some day generating $6.5 million in revenue consulting, marketing specialty software and offering risk management services to funeral homes, hospitals, clinics, dialysis centers and other healthcare facilities,
Anzalone and Conrad are two of a growing number of entrepreneurs who have participated in the FastPitch competition, where business owners and wanabees make a three-minute pitch to sell an idea to a panel of judges.
The first place winner is awarded $5,000, second prize nets $1,000 and third place is worth $500.
FastPitch is entering its third year and will be held again this summer. It’s sponsored by Gateway Technical College in collaboration with the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, the Racine Economic Development, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and UW-Parkside Small Business Development Center.
Two years ago it attracted 45 participants, according to Kristen Niemiec of Gateway.
“FastPitch has helped so many people get started in business. Even those who do not win get enough help to fine tune their business plan and realize their goals,” she said. “We have people who may have written an idea on a napkin or someone who wants an expansion. We had a person who made a pitch and now he has a food truck.”
Gateway’s Kate Walker, director of business development, said they got the idea for FastPitch from a Rockford project. “They shared information with us, we adopted it and now it has been very successful here.”
The third annual FastPitch competition is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Gateway Technical College’s SC Johnson integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., Sturtevant.
The deadline to submit a presentation is July 30. Organizers strongly recommend participants attend a training class on either Aug. 6 or Aug. 7.
Participants deliver a three-minute pitch about a business or business concept before a three-judge panel comprising members of the business and investment communities. After the first round 10 finalists advance to the final round.
Conrad badly wanted to participate in the competition.
“I remember not having enough money to buy gas,” she recalled. After getting there, her effort was rewarded. “I had an 85-page business plan. They (during the practice period) told me it was too long. They helped me hone it down to 18-20 pages.”
Her finished product and the presentation netted her third place in the 2011 competition. “I thought we’d need $750,000 to launch the business. We got the investors.”
Environmental Health Concepts, 520 58th St., now has clients in Washington, California, Texas and in Florida where the company is helping a seven-hospital system.
Anzalone relocated from Racine to Milwaukee, the home of one of his first university partners. He was last year’s first place winner. The $5,000 prize was the boost he really needed to set up the database and add other business infrastructure.
Rent college Pads.com enlists colleges to reach students. Landlords pay a flat fee to have their properties listed.
“They really helped me put together the right words in my pitch,” Anzalone said referring to the help he got from the FastPitch experts. Working with them really helped me to plan what I do much better.”