Finals of Business Plan Competition, Keynote by Chip Perry to Be Held This Saturday at Mercer University


ATLANTA – Mercer University's inaugural Entrepreneurship Festival concludes this Saturday with live presentations by six finalists in a business plan competition, as well as a speech by architect and former CEO of AutoTrader Group Chip Perry at a luncheon where the winner of the competition will be announced and $10,000 in prize money will be awarded.

The presentations, which are open to the public, will begin at 8 a.m. in Room 007 of the Stetson School of Business and Economics building on the Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta. The finalists are Candace Eldridge, founder of Jawdroppers; Tiane McKoy, creator of Lady in Pearls; Cheikh Ngiane, originator of Taranga Bissap Tea; Rashida Thurmond, founder of Storx; and Johnny Washington, creator of The Construction Zone.

Five highly qualified judges will evaluate these presentations. They include Candace Mitchell, founding CEO of Techturized and winner of three recent business plan contests; Kelvin Buncum, vice president of innovation and global business process for Sam's Club; and Alan Urech, veteran judge, founder of Stony River Capital and instructor at Georgia State University. Additionally, a pair of Mercer Business alums, Akbar Kassam, president of investment company DGG, and Bhavesh (Bobby) Patel, who has broad investment portfolio of companies and has also earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Mercer, round out the panel of judges.

BB&T will present cash prizes of $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place at the luncheon, which is a ticketed event. Services from professional firms, such as intellectual property and general legal orientation from the firm of Casey Gilson and marketing support from Go Getter, will be provided to the winners.

Also at the luncheon, Perry will be named the University's “Outstanding Entrepreneur for 2014” and will deliver his keynote address. He was the first employee of (ATC) in August 1997 and president and CEO from inception until March 2013. He started the company from scratch for Cox Enterprises and grew it from zero to $1.4 billion in revenue and more than 3,500 employees.

Perry is a civil engineering graduate of the University of Virginia and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has received several industry awards and accolades, including being named a 2001 and 2011 Automotive News All-Star; receiving an honorary doctorate from Northwood University, a renowned automotive college; and receiving the 2009 National Independent Automotive Dealers Association (NIADA) Ring of Honor, given annually to an industry executive who has contributed to the professionalism and growth of the automotive industry.

The Entrepreneurship Festival offers the opportunity for participants to build their management capabilities with insights into the entrepreneurial process and the development of a successful business plan; experience in transforming ideas into real business solutions; priceless feedback and personal advice on current business concepts; contacts through a network of people who can expand their business resources; and an educational experience that adds value to any resume.

“The Stetson School of Business and Economics expects the Entrepreneurship Festival to become an annual tradition, encouraging the spirit of free enterprise, providing our students with enhanced opportunities to grow as business leaders and celebrating their accomplishments,” said Dr. Robert D. Perkins, associate professor of management at Mercer.

For more information on the festival, contact Dr. Perkins at (678) 547-6179 or

About the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics

Established in 1984, Mercer University's Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics is named for Eugene W. Stetson, a 1901 Mercer graduate and business pioneer who leveraged the first major buyout in corporate history. Over the past 80 years, Mercer has granted over 12,000 business degrees, and many of its graduates hold senior leadership positions in companies around the world. Mercer's business school delivers career-focused business education programs and develops entrepreneurial leaders and responsible global citizens. It holds accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which places it among the top five percent of all top business schools worldwide. Mercer's business school has been recognized by the Princeton Review as No. 3 for “Greatest Opportunity for Women” and one of its “Best Business Schools.” In addition, it has been recognized among the “Top 15 Schools in the Nation for Marketing and Accounting.”

The School offers the following programs: Atlanta (Evening BBA, Full-Time MBA, Flexible MBA, Executive MBA and Virtual Professional MBA), Macon (Traditional BBA and Flexible MBA), Savannah (Virtual PMBA), Douglas County and Henry County (Evening BBA).

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​