The Melton Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MCEI) in the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama hosted the finals of the third annual Causeway Pitch Competition Nov. 7 at the Fort of Colonial Mobile.

“The Causeway Pitch Competition is a two-stage event. First, students create a poster to promote their business or social idea. The highest-scoring posters are then invited to deliver a one-to-two-minute elevator pitch on a duck boat in the middle of the Mobile Bay,” Dr. Donald Mosley, executive director for MCEI, said.

Fourteen entrepreneurial teams at USA qualified for the second round to present their ideas while floating on duck boats, sponsored by Scott Tindle, local co-owner of both Gulf Coast Ducks and the Fort of Colonial Mobile. Students from across campus, including Arts & Sciences, Business and the Honors College, competed for upward of $5,500 in total prizes.

MCEI assisted students in preparing for the contest with online tutorials supplemented with extensive office hours and pitch practices.

Winners of the event this year include: Bailey Duos, first place, Port City Pups; Kaitlin Kelly, second place, Online Retail Store for Short Women; and Brianna Ladnier, third place, Hold N Fold.

“Winning the $2,000 is definitely a perk, but the validation this competition gave me is worth more than money,” said first-place winner Duos, founder of Port City Pups. “I’ve been working on this business for three years, and to have it recognized as a great idea means everything to me.”

Additional awards were earned for students’ favorite and best in each college. Judges included local prominent entrepreneurs, business owners and representatives from United Bank and Pulse Network

“This year was different from the previous two years, in that we had students pitching possible ideas that involve technologies that actually exist. To me, that’s a sign that the students are taking the contest more seriously in regards to starting businesses. The competition seems to be gaining more recognition and prestige across the campus,” Dr. Thomas Nelson, MCEI director, said.   

Raj joins Comprehensive Pain & Rehabilitation

Comprehensive Pain & Rehabilitation recently expanded its practice, per a news release, with the addition of Marc Alexander Raj, D.O., a fellowship-trained physician who specializes in interventional sports, spine and regenerative medicine.

A Louisiana native, Raj earned a degree in biochemistry with honors in chemistry from Loyola University of New Orleans. A graduate of NOVA Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Davie, Florida, he completed a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at LSU in New Orleans. Raj also completed a fellowship at the Bodor Clinic Regenerative Spine and Sports Medicine facility in Napa, California.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, registered in musculoskeletal ultrasonography and is licensed to practice medicine in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and California.

Raj has written papers for multiple peer-reviewed publications and research studies, including an article cited in Forbes magazine titled “Pokemon Go: Imaginary Creatures, Tangible Risks” about the potential dangers of augmented reality mobile gaming.

Business moves and transactions

Bellator Real Estate & Development recently announced its merger with Fairhope Realty Group (FRG) of Fairhope. The merger will support the growth of Bellator’s residential and commercial sales throughout Baldwin County and along the Eastern Shore, according to a news release.

The current FRG office in downtown Fairhope — which will now be known as Bellator Real Estate & Development – Fairhope Section Street Office — will become Bellator’s eighth office and second location in Fairhope. Terryl Reeves, owner of FRG, will handle the new office’s operations as managing broker.

 • River Financial Corp., parent company of River Bank & Trust, has completed its merger with Peoples Southern Bank and parent company PSB Bancshares Inc. With the addition of Peoples Southern Bank, on a pro forma combined basis the bank has total assets exceeding $1 billion and becomes one of the largest community banks headquartered in Alabama. There are now 14 River Bank & Trust locations across the state, including an office in Daphne.

• Neel-Schaffer engineering, planning and construction management is expanding into an additional 2,178 square feet of office space in Bel Air Tower, located at 851 E. I-65 Service Road S. in Mobile, encompassing a total of 6,249 square feet. The larger office space will open in December 2019. Jason Scott, leasing executive with Stirling Properties in Mobile, handled the transaction.

• A Florida based health care company has purchased the former Country Place assisted living facility at 140 McRae St. in Atmore for $1.086 million. The new owners will reopen the 18,000-square-foot facility as The Summit. Adam Metcalfe with Metcalfe and Co. Inc. represented the seller. Ann Gordon with Atmore Realty worked for the buyer.

• Denver-based Sola Salon recently leased a 4,500-square-foot retail space at 10200 Eastern Shore Drive, Suite 300, adjacent to the Eastern Shore Centre in Spanish Fort. This is the second site to open locally for the franchise, with the first shop established in 2016 in Mobile at 4023 Airport Blvd. Plans are in place to house upward of 20 high-end stylists as independent contractors when the Baldwin County salon is fully staffed.

• Jay O’Brien with J.L. O’Brien & Associates Inc. recently reported local owners of some seven acres of property in Fairhope, at the northeast corner of Highway 181 and Fairhope Avenue, sold the site to Essen, Germany-based grocer Aldi for $1.25 million. Aaron Solomon with Capital Growth represented the buyers. O’Brien worked for the sellers.

• H.T. Barnes Co., a Foley-based window treatments company, has leased a 7,500-square-foot office and warehouse facility at 11426 County Road 65 in Foley. Adam Metcalfe of Metcalfe and Co. Inc. represented the landlord. David Milstead with Bellator Real Estate worked for the tenant.

• Distribution Now, an industrial supply company, has leased an additional 10,400 square feet of warehouse space at 3131 Hamilton Blvd. in Mobile, according to Adam Metcalfe with Metcalfe and Co. Inc., who managed the transaction.