LEWISTON — Welcome to the Shark Tank, Lewiston-Auburn style.

At one end of the room are six high school students with six business ideas. The boys are wearing dress shirts and ties. The girls, blouses and slacks. They’ve come seeking start-up funds, and preparation is the key.

At the other side of the room sits a group of stone-faced businessmen in power suits. These are folks who know a thing about what it takes to start a company. They’re also the people who will decide who gets the money and how much.

The students of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy class at Lewiston Regional Technical Center don’t look tense at all.

“I think I’m more nervous than they are,” LRTC Director Rob Callahan said.

The academy is a national program sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Campaign for Free Enterprise.

Callahan has been grooming the students, teaching them how to give good presentations and to cover all bases. He doesn’t just hope for good things, he expects it.

“This is a good group of young men and women,” Callahan said. “They have an earnest desire to start a business, to run a business and to do it here, locally. It’s just great to watch them show off what they’ve worked very hard at.”

The first student with a big idea is Patrick DeBlois, who means to start a T-shirt business called Hot Off the Press. The clock is ticking. The team of investors is waiting to be convinced.

DeBlois and his partners mean to sell custom-designed T-shirts for $10 a pop, targeting companies with logos or any of the local school sports and event clubs. With just a small start-up — they’re asking for $505 — they figure they’ll start turning profits within eight months.

“We feel that’s a reasonable time,” DeBlois tells the severe-looking investors.

Next up, Ashley Hill, who wants to provide on-site day care services for local businesses with large workforces. Good news, Hill told the group. There are no such services offered locally. Competition? What competition? All she needs is $1,000 to get her license and certificates as well as some equipment for her centers. With that in hand, Hill figures she’ll drum up business at area hospitals, call centers and the like where there are many workers with a need for baby-sitting services.

“These people are hard workers who know a good deal when they see one,” Hill tells the investors. “With nothing out there like this, it’s bound to be a success.”

The men of the investor panel tap their chins and ask their questions. They take notes, nod to one another and then prepare for the next candidate.

This was the second year of the YEA event at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce. Last year, several students made their business pitches and ultimately were awarded money to get their companies off the ground. Wednesday night was just a starting point for this new group of entrepreneurs, according to chamber President Chip Morrison. The real joy will be in seeing what they do with the momentum and the start-up funds.

“I’d love to talk about the success that’s going to happen after tonight,” Morrison said.

But first, there are more students coming forth with fresh ideas.

Esther A. Romanov wants to start a business offering freshly baked goods, with a specialty in international cuisine.

“Although immigrants love America, the land of opportunity, they miss foods of their cultures,” she tells the investors.

Issak Hussein wants to start Universal Barber services. He’s been cutting hair for five years now and he’s becoming quite good, particularly at styling the hair of ethnic folks who typically have to drive to Portland to get the cut they want. He’s got a hook, too: Children will get free cuts if their parents have already come for full styles. Hussein wants to set up shop in the Bates Mill Enterprise Complex so all of his customers will have easy access to his services.

The investors mull it.

Max Bolduc is a golf nut; Reilly Bolduc knows everything there is to know about skiing. Together, they want to start a company that would buy and refurbish golf equipment and skis and then turn them around for profit. They have a full business plan ready and they figure all they need is $500 to get it going.

Matt Hudson wants to start a property management group, drawing on experience he’s developed by working in the business with his godmother. He has the handyman skills to fix up various apartments and buildings and he has a way with people. All he needs is $650 and he figures he’ll be off and running, with a plan to expand into rural areas after a few years.

With that, the investors disappear into a back room to talk over the various proposals. Every student who presented will be awarded money to get their ideas off the ground. The question is, who will get what? And what single student would be selected to represent LRTC at the end of the month in Rochester, N.Y.?

It takes them nearly half an hour to reach their decision.

“You all gave us plenty to think about,” Morrison tells the group.

In the end, Hussein, with his barbershop dream, was picked to go on to the event in New York. He was awarded $750, just shy of the $1,000 he had requested, to make it happen. The others were awarded start-up money ranging from $300 to $550.

When it was over, Hussein got a few high-fives and one or two hugs. He loves cutting hair, he said. Who knows what the future will bring now that he’s combining a passion for hairstyling with money and a solid plan.

“I just want to turn that passion into a business,” he said.

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