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Undergrad wins $15K with paintball plan

 

Casey Henry likes paintball because it takes hard work and dedication.

It’s also why she said she likes being an entrepreneur.

Last week, Henry, a senior majoring in finance, won $15,000 along with her business partner Amy Abdnour, to bring her interests in paintball and business together.

Henry was the last of seven finalist groups that pitched ideas ranging from skin and haircare products to redistributing medical supplies to the developing world to a panel of established local business leaders including CEOs, presidents and lawyers in the 2013 Fintech Business Plan Competition early Friday morning.

She said she was initially nervous about her competition, some of whom were dressed in suits and worked in the corporate world before.

“Everything sounded more important than paintball, like medical distribution and solar-powered energy,” she said. “I thought it would be a really hard sell.”

But as she presented her plan to create South Tampa Paintball, a facility that will serve tournament paintball teams, she said she grew more comfortable. Paintball was something she knew.

Henry first played paintball when she was 14 and played on a tournament team for two years. But as she got busy with her Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses in high school, she spent less time playing paintball. She’s played a few times since then, but paintball remains a large part of how she thinks, she said.

“I like that it’s fast paced and dynamic,” she said. “You don’t have to be the strongest person, the fastest person. You have to have good communication skills with your team, fine motor skills, like accuracy and knowing your gun and your team’s strategy. You can’t just go in and be good. You have to practice a lot. That’s what I love about it. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”

This January, Henry said she made a New Year’s resolution to follow through on a goal.

“I’m notorious for starting things and never finishing them,” she said. “So one of my New Year’s resolutions was to start something and go all the way through with it.”

She had always wanted to become an entrepreneur and start a business, so she made a list of things she knew about. Paintball was one of them.

As she began researching the paintball fields she played on competitively as a teenager, she found that little had changed since then. The closest tournament field is still in Lakeland, she said.

“After the economy kind of tanked, recreational paintball tanked,” she said. “But the corporate entities in paintball started restructuring themselves to make it really easy for teams to get into leagues and divisions. So I thought, ‘This is the perfect time to get into the paintball market.’”

Henry and Abdnour made a business plan and sent it to banks to raise start-up capital for their project. They raised $80,000, but still needed $15,000.

In January, Henry’s professor sent out an email about the USF Center for Entrepreneurship hosting the Fintech competition, and Henry decided to send the same plans she had sent to the banks.

As she explained the plan, which had been selected along with six others as finalists, the panel of judges seemed impressed.

“You’re right on,” Scott Riley, Fintech’s CEO, said to her.

Henry was awarded the $15,000, and honorable mentions were called out to those involved with ShipSharps, a start-up that proposed to dispose of biomedical waste more efficiently, and 1 Apple Groceries, a grocery store in Sulfur Springs designed to serve low-income homes.

On Saturday, Henry said the owner of 16 Division I Paintball teams called her, asking if he could talk about using her site as the home field for some of his teams.

But Henry said the next few weeks will involve some hard work. It will involve bush hogging, tree clearing and more in order to prepare the site in South Tampa for opening this summer.

“The whole idea of being an entrepreneur is very romantic,” she said. “Everybody wants to be their own boss and create their own business and have something to hang their hat on. Being an entrepreneur is really hard, but (people) should stick to what they know and they may be surprised. It’s a process. It takes some luck, dedication and a lot of hard work to make things happen.”