FastPitch 2011 Comes to a Close
On Thursday, March 31, 40 competitors pitched their products, services, and start-up business ideas to a room of spectators and judges made up of local business-people, members of the Ariel Savannah Angel Partners, lawyers and students. The 40 competitors were narrowed down from 106 applicants from the Coastal Empire and Low Country as well as some from the Atlanta area. The participants were then divided in to three groups: Students, Academics, and Entrepreneurs.
The day of the FastPitch Competition judges had already read over the presenters’ packages which included product and company information, cost and profit evaluations and market research. The competitors were given just three minutes to pitch their ideas to the 20-some judges who judged the participants based on their one page presentation, business viability/attractiveness, and the overall presentation.
A winner and runner-up were chosen from each category and an overall winner was chosen. For the winners, there were trophies and prize money. But according to judge and start-up businessman Radford Harrell, the cash prizes were not the real value of the competition.
“As a start-up, the value is really in the presentation to this culture. The start up culture here in Savannah, as well as, the academic culture who also is tied to potential business networking…The real value is in showing up on the radar,” said Harrell.
There was no specific product, service or business category that the competitors were limited to and there was no central theme among the competitors. Of the 12 students, business ideas ranged from publishing companies to Bowsworld
backpacks that “can carry anything from an elephant to an iPod” to businesses focused on local sustainability. 3 competitors in the academic category pitched product ideas for business software, fashionable and ergonomic crutches and slings, and a model that will help students training in physical and massage therapy schools pass competency exams. The entrepreneur’s ideas were even more diverse.
Many of the entrepreneurs focused on products that would improve day to day business life ranging from social media management to software that allowed businesses to create websites and write software in plain English so there is no need to know how to write html code. Other entrepreneurs had created environmentally friendly pest irrigation systems, water filtration systems, kids furniture that only allowed one toy out of the toy chest at a time, iPhone games, and modern bartering systems.
Of the many different ideas, judges had to choose just six contestants to compete in the final round where the overall winner would be chosen.
From the student category, Alysse Shuffer was chosen as runner-up. She and three of her Georgia Southern classmates came up with “A Magical Banquet at Hogwarts: Dining with Wizards,” a dining experience that mixes the outrageous Hogwarts banquets, owls and magical effects. They are currently in talks with Universal Studios and plan to pitch their idea to Disney executives at the end of the semester. James Bowerman was the winner in the student category with Bowsworld backpacks. A completely convertible backpack that can transform into a satchel or shoulder bag with just a few clicks. James boasted a simple design that he could manufacture for just $8 each and already had Savannah stores willing to sell his products and local designers to create original fabrics and designs to differentiate his product.
Mariah Hay took top honors in the Academic category with her stylish and comfortable medical products. Mariah came up with the idea after having to wear an arm sling herself and noticing that it was so unattractive and uncomfortable that she never wanted to use it, even if it meant that her arm wouldn’t heal properly. According to Mariah, current medical products don’t pass the “psychological wellness test,” but her stylish and ergonomic crutches and slings are good enough to be sold in Nike’s slick, modern stores. Chris Masters was awarded second place for his Muscle Magic, the detailed, realistic model that is currently helping students in Savannah School of Massage pass their competency exams. Masters’ goal is to expand his customer base and assist students nationwide.
Three contestants were chosen from the entrepreneur category. Second runner-up, Louise Hodges has already started GreenBug All Natural Pest Control with sprays made from Cedar which is a natural pest deterrent but is not harmful to humans, animals or helpful insects such as ladybugs, butterflies and honey bees. She is currently working on expanding her business to include an irrigation system which automatically sprays a client’s yard once a day and is more effective and cheaper than traditional mosquito sprayers. Kevin Werntz took second with Peas-Corp (www.Peas-Corp.com) a creative development, game production and distribution company that was started after the success of the iPhone app Whirled Peas. Peas-Corp games are currently available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Go Hastings! nationwide as well as Polka Dots and Four Kids in Savannah. Peas-Corp is looking for additional funding to help get their products off the ground by creating a strategic marketing plan to attract consumers to these retailers to purchase Peas-Corp goods.
Diana Keough not only took first place in the entrepreneur category but was also awarded as the overall competition winner. Keough’s winning pitch was for her company shareWIK (www.shareWIK.com). ShareWIK is an online community for family members and friends of patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, etc. ShareWIK stands for “share what I know” and was described by Keough as “WebMD meets Facebook.” It is an online community where real people can share their experiences and offer hope, advice and facts to those who are dealing with a family member’s diagnosis. ShareWIK was started by a team of journalist and offers an objective point of view in their podcasts, blog and article posts.
Additional advice from judges included, Chair of the Center’s Advisory Council and Entrepreneurial Fellow Jim Williams told the contestants to “be sure to explain what the money [you are asking for] is going to and be realistic in your revenues, your expenses and your profitability.” To which Entrepreneurial Fellow Larry Zaslavsky added, “don’t be afraid to ask for more money up front, the first bite is always the worst but once you get over that you don’t want to have to keep asking for more and more.”The
Savannah Morning News Article March 27th
The Savannah Morning News Article March 31st
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