BTCF Blog | Entrepreneurs share their pitches at EforAll contest

BTCF Blog

Entrepreneurs share their pitches at EforAll contest

By Darryl Gangloff / February 7, 2020 / Economic Opportunity
Entrepreneurs share their pitches at EforAll contest

Local entrepreneurs passionately shared their promising business ideas and competed for seed funding during EforAll Berkshire County’s pitch contest on Wednesday at the Green in North Adams. The diverse group of winners were a 10-year-old girl, an entertainer who promotes the art of drag and a pair of college students, highlighting that this work focuses on the untapped potential of every resident.

Entrepreneurship for All is an innovative nonprofit program that leverages public-private partnerships for proven economic and social impact. It has a group of committed local funders in Berkshire County, including Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. [Read more about EforAll in the New York Times.]

During Wednesday’s event, representatives from more than a dozen startups handed out samples, hosted demonstrations and practiced their short pitches with a standing-room-only crowd. The wide range of business proposals included a hydroponic farm; a brick-and-mortar coffee bar and jewelry shop; manufacturing training and education programs; healthy dips to entice children to eat their vegetables; shirts with QR codes to combine geocaching and community; a dessert delivery service; home décor made from recycled bottles; and a holistic educational center for survivors of domestic abuse.

Jacob Johnson, an entertainer and illusion artist, performed sleight-of-hand tricks and displayed his special effects and prop fabrication skills. “Remember, this is an illusion,” he said as he transformed a stack of $1 bills into $10 bills. “If I could make money appear out of thin air, I wouldn’t be here tonight.”

Eight entrepreneurs moved forward to the lively pitch presentations, where they had 2.5 minutes to convince a panel of judges that their idea deserved funding. Williams College students Vincent Gudenus and Zack Schreier received the top prize of $1,000 for their Lifestacks energizing coffee creamer, and they also won the Fan Favorite award of $500. In second place, Aaron Johnson of Out of the Boxxa Productions received $750 to expand his Berkshire drag shows and create a safe space for people of all races, genders and sexualities. In third place, 10-year-old Ava Neathawk—who was selected by the crowd as the table favorite—earned $500 for her gluten-free custom cutting boards to avoid food cross-contamination.

“Who wants to order one today?” Ava exclaimed at the end of her pitch to a round of applause.

[Read more about the winners in iBerkshires and the Berkshire Eagle.]

The judges were Amber Besaw of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; Ben Lamb of 1Berkshire; Brent Filson of Lever; Donna Halton of Adams Community Bank; Kelli Kozak of Mountain One; Nate Girard of Bloom Brothers; and Tonio Palmer of Williams College.

EforAll Berkshire County’s first pitch contest was held in October at Berkshire Museum. [Read about the event in the Berkshire Eagle.] The next pitch contest is scheduled for May 13 at the Stationary Factory in Dalton.

In addition to these contests, a group of emerging entrepreneurs is currently participating in a yearlong accelerator program to receive training, mentorship and access to an extended professional network as they build their businesses. A celebration and showcase for the cohort will be held on Tuesday, April 7, at the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield.

EforAll Berkshire County is made possible by a group of partners including the City of Pittsfield and Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC); Greylock Federal Credit Union; Mill Town Capital; 1Berkshire; the Feigenbaum Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Callahan Dee Family Foundation and the Shah Family Foundation; Common Capital; and MassDevelopment.

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