By Jeff Brown, WBZ New England Business

LOWELL (CBS) – The first ever Merrimack Valley Sandbox Showdown pitch contest is Thursday night at UMass-Lowell.

Co-executive director David Parker tells WBZ NewswRadio 1030 ten aspiring entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to a panel of celebrity judges and an audience. The winner gets $10,000.

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WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jeff Brown reports

Parker says the contest got underway several months ago with more than 200 entries. Through a series of pitches, that number has been whittled down to the finalists. Being a new organization, Merrimack Valley Sandbox has just started reaching into the community, encouraging people to come forward with ideas.

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As WBZ New England Business has reported, serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande helped create the program and is the man behind the award money. This ceremony is a precursor to a three-month accelerator program coming this winter.

Parker says it’s a great way to take an idea and make a business out of it. He says hopefully down the road, these businesses will eventually hire people and be good for the economy.

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The public is invited to the entrepreneur showdown at UMass-Lowell. It starts at 6 p.m.