The University of Tampa welcomed students from across the country this week for the annual Southeastern Entrepreneurship Conference.

About 200 students networked and learned about entrepreneurship from experienced business owners.

“Our goal is to build the Tampa Bay region by educating these young men and women and helping to create prospective entrepreneurs,” said Rebecca White, UT Professor of Entrepreneurship. “And then keep them here in the Tampa Bay region.”

During a pitch competition, 25 students also competed to win start-up money for their business idea. The field was eventually narrowed to nine students that competed Saturday.

Paul Szoldra is a UT senior and a former Marine. His business idea is

“It is a service for military members to help them transition from the military into the college environment,” Szoldra said. “We’re trying to help them through every aspect: choosing the right school, a veteran friendly school, helping them with the application process and getting their GI bill benefits.”

Former UT student Edouard Carrie is an example of what the young entrepreneurs are striving for.

Carrie was in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake and realized he had an idea to clean up the environment, while making a profit. He came up with a business plan and started a recycling company called Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A.

“I started out with two employees, and currently right now I have 49 employees,” Carrie said. “But we estimated I give jobs to about, I figure, close to 10,000 people out in the streets of Haiti. We’re cleaning up the environment and giving them hope for the future."

This is the third year University of Tampa has hosted the conference.