Entrepreneurs pitch business ideas at UNA to win $5,000

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) -  From fashion to geriatrics, people of all ages took an opportunity to make their ideas something bigger in Florence Tuesday.

Entrepreneurs of all ages pitched business ideas to a panel at the University of North Alabama. Participants competed for a chance to win $5,000 and a chance to network and start up a business.

Idea Audition is a joint venture between the Shoals Chamber of Commerce and the University of North Alabama. Participants presented business ideas in front of business leaders and experts. Each person had three minutes to present a plan.

The panel heard 32 pitches Tuesday night. From homes made from shipping containers to a specialized cloth to help in geriatric home care, everyone was there to help solve a problem. They narrowed it down to six finalists, and eventually a winner.

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A popular category was recycling. For 19-year-old Maggie Killen, her idea was recycling for fashion and home decor.

"Everything here is recycled and upcycled," Killen said, presenting her makeshift merchandise store.

So, what exactly is upcycling? "It's the process of taking something old, redoing it into something new and, in my definition, new with more value," answered Killen.

It's a new concept, with old roots and a young heart behind it all. Killen started when she was just ten years old. From Christmas tree ornaments to jewelry to windows, everything is redone and upcycled.

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"Home decor and fashion is my specialty", she said. It's an idea, like many others, with a story behind it,

"I traveled to Europe this summer and they don't waste anything and that really hit home with me," said Killen. "So, I brought a little bit of the concept home with me."

Although she didn't win the competition, it was a growing experience for everyone. It was also a great way to network.

The Idea Audition winner this year was Brandon Gillis and Andy Alonso with their PartCycle idea. It's an online market for buyers and sellers for automotive parts.