NIIC Coach Rosalina Perez and team win “Entrepreneurship and Innovative Design Pitch Competition”

For two years, Rosalina Perez has been telling women how to succeed in starting and building their own businesses. And she’s setting an example for them as well.

Rosalina, an entrepreneurship coach at the WEOC Women’s Business Center (WBC) located at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC), was part of the three-person team that took first prize in Purdue University Fort Wayne’s initial “Entrepreneurship and Innovative Design Pitch Competition” this spring. The team split $10,000 for its winning effort, but Perez said she found the experience and insights she gained in the process equally as valuable.

“To do well, you had to really put your differences aside and work as a team, stay disciplined in showing up, and getting out of our comfort zone,” is how she describes her main takeaways from the experience. “It really boosted my confidence.”

The competition capped a 16-week-long course at PFW’s Doermer School of Business that attracted undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of majors. Perez, who expects to complete her bachelor’s degree in economics in May of 2026, joined two engineering-major teammates to craft a business model for a company that takes engineering data and product designs to create new, innovative designs for product manufacturing.  She provided the financial blueprint for the plan, which relies, in part, on AI and data digitization. The team began its market research at a recent Purdue career fair, where it found its first potential customer — an auto parts manufacturer. Local business owners who judged the PFW class competition later voted their business plan as the most promising of the nine submitted.

Rosalina says the experience will inform the way she advises the women she sees at the WEOC WBC/NIIC. She has appointments with approximately five advisees in any given week and estimates she has met with 100 women — primarily, but not exclusively, Spanish-speaking — during her time with WEOC WBC/NIIC.

“I tell them to get clear on their customers’ needs and find out where they are,” she says of her approach. “I think this experience has made me a better coach.”


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