The Missouri Innovation Corporation (MIC) at Southeast Missouri State University presented two $500 cash prizes, provided by course sponsor Isle Casino of Cape Girardeau, to Melia Neal and Jocelyn Anderson, both of Cape Girardeau, first and second place winners respectively in the pitch competition component of the LaunchU entrepreneurship training course.

“LaunchU has given me the opportunity to put my ideas and thoughts into an amazing feasibility plan so I can take my business concept to the next level,” said Neal, who plans to launch a non-profit organization. “The class has also allowed me to connect with some astonishing individuals in the community that I can reach out to as I continue my business journey.”

LaunchU is a six-week hands-on course that coaches aspiring entrepreneurs and startups through the business planning process to determine business feasibility, including the actual development of a professional, Small Business Administration-approved business plan, pitch and financial forecast. At the end of the recent cohort held at the main campus of the University, several of the class participants competed with their pitches in front of a judging panel comprised of local business professionals.

“The pitch competition is an opportunity for our participants to win some great prizes and practice displaying the confidence and business acumen they’ll need to impress potential investors, lenders, and partners,” said Gabrielle Penca, project coordinator for the MIC. “This practice, paired with data-backed business plans, earns our graduates credibility, thus increasing their chances of receiving additional funding.”

The competition’s first place prize was a package valued at $5,475 including $500 from the class sponsor Isle Casino of Cape Girardeau and pro bono services provided by BOLD Marketing and Osburn, Hine, Yates & Murphy, LLC. Additionally, second place was awarded $500 from the Isle Casino.

“At Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, we are excited to take an active role in seeing LaunchU become a reality,” said Lyle Randolph, general manager and vice president. “The program offers a wonderful opportunity for individuals looking to start their own business and provides the tools to help them succeed.”

Future LaunchU classes, dates and times are being developed for communities in the Bootheel region. Interested participants and sponsors are asked to contact Project Coordinator Gabrielle Penca at (573) 986-6085 or