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Bike-share plan wins Geneva Panther Pitch

GENEVA — Geneva may someday be able to add “bike-friendly” to its accolades — at least if Darby Bleakley and Natalie Berg-Pappert get their way.

The young entrepreneurs won over judges at the Panther Pitch last Wednesday with a proposal for FLX Ride, a bike-sharing company.

Geneva High School economics students compete annually in the Panther Pitch, a student entrepreneurial contest held at the Geneva Community Center’s Black Box Theatre. The competition was launched by retired teacher Steve Muzzi, who included it every year in his economics class curriculum since launching it five years ago.

“I really don’t know who’s going to win,” Muzzi commented as the audience waited for judges to reach a verdict.

Muzzi attended the contest to support his successor, social studies teacher Ashley Pereira.

The pitch itself was the final step in what is in fact several weeks of planning, preparation and preliminary competition. Each team works with Hobart and William Smith Colleges students in professor Craig Talmage’s entrepreneurial classes to prepare business plans that are both innovative and socially conscious. They must first win a spot among the five finalists, selected by the HWS students, before going on to compete at the Black Box.

FLX Ride faced an additional challenge because Berg-Pappert was unable to attend the Panther Pitch, leaving Bleakley on her own to present their proposal and field questions. Modeled in part after Citi Bike in New York City, their company would offer an alternative to cars and cabs by setting up rental bikes and docking stations around the city. They also proposed a partnership with the Geneva Bicycle Center and the city of Geneva in the implementation of bike lanes throughout the city.

“I think (all) the students did a wonderful job preparing,” Pereira said. “Their ideas are just very inspiring.”

In addition to FLX Ride, proposals included Coffee Stain Café, Danceability, FLX Multicultural Center, and Market on the Move:

• Alejandra Agosto-Perez and Georgedaliz Lopez-Guevara proposed Coffee Stain Cafe, a small library and coffee shop intended to encourage both readership and camaraderie.

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