It’s the stuff of fairy tales…or the reality show Shark Tank. Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 finalist pitched their business start-up ideas to a panel of judges in REV Birmingham’s Fourth Annual Big Pitch by PNC.
In front of a live audience, these hopeful finalist presented their start-up dreams for a chance to win their share of $40,000 start-up investment, professional services and maybe the attention of an investor from the audience.
In it’s fourth year, The Big Pitch has grown to become an important showcase of Birmingham’s small business community. Quite a large crowd attended the finale at the Negro Southern League Museum. There was a palpable atmosphere of excitement and energy.
Unlike Shark Tank, the focus of The Big Pitch isn’t just whether a start-up will succeed financially. The proposed businesses have to make money while benefiting a neighborhood or impacting Birmingham positively.
The finalist not only got a chance to pitch their ideas last Saturday, but they had the benefit of working with mentors throughout the entire process . This collaboration and guidance will be huge benefit whether they took home the prize or not. The mentors for 2017:
The judges were academics, business innovators, and representatives from the banking and tech sectors.
And the winners are:
The First place winner was R&M Convenience Store owned by Rodriquez and Brianna Cowans. This family owned and operated small grocery, is changing their name and brand to 3rd Street Market. They will continue to offer their neighbors of the Enon Ridge community reliable and trustworthy products and service.
In the history of the Big Pitch, no contestant has ever won “1st Place” and “People’s Choice.” However, we were able to bring home not one, but both awards. Thanks to our family, friends and continuous supporters. A special thanks to David Fleming, CEO of REV Bham, and the entire REV Team.
Brianna Cowans , owner R&M.
In second place was Square One Goods from Kate Hardy. Hardy is a transplant to Birmingham from England. Her idea is a cheeky shop that raises smiles through cards, stationery and gifts. See her original pitch video here!
And an honorable mention, or third place nod went to a young entrepreneur named Rae’Mah Henderson who presented her idea for Yobi Salads Express. Henderson is only 17 years old, yet her poise, knowledge and ambition earned a standing ovation at the end of her presentation. Rae’Mah didn’t meet The Big Pitch age requirement, so she couldn’t take home the win, but she did secure a co-starters scholarship from Create Birmingham and a guaranteed spot as a competitor-in-training.
One of the judges, Lakey Boyd, the Director of Operations for business tech incubator, Innovate Birmingham, was very impressed by all the entrepreneurs. Her advice to them:
Just start. Take the first step and get connected to your customers. Getting early traction with customers helps to confirm your business concept, help you make a better product, and build a business model to achieve actual revenue. If you have an idea that compels you, then take action and share it by connecting to like-minded folks!
Lakey Boyd, Innovate Birmingham
Be on the lookout for these exciting new start-ups. Do you have that entrepreneurial spirit?