Small Business News

Entrepreneurs Compete in Fifth Annual Pitch Contest
Cash awards to be used for start-up costs
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2016
By: Shaun Sappenfield

For the fifth consecutive year, StartUp Jefferson City offered entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business ideas for a chance at winning cash awards to help support future growth plans.  On October 15, entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch their business ideas.  The event, held at the Capital Event Center, was hosted by StartUp Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Rural Missouri, Inc., a provider of SBA small business loans.  

For the fourth year, Rural Missouri, Inc. (RMI) has been the main sponsor of the Pitch It & Win It competition.   Without their generous contribution of cash awards, StartUp Jefferson City would not be able to offer this unique opportunity to the local community.  “RMI’s ongoing monetary support is critical to the success of StartUp Jefferson City’s pitch competition,” said Shaun Sappenfield, Existing Business Manager for the Chamber.  “Zola Finch and her staff are very supportive of our efforts, as collectively our missions align to assist new and existing businesses as they seek the resources needed to start and grow their businesses.” 

 “Each year, the annual pitch event offers startups a venue to share their business ideas,” said Dr. Eric S. Burgess PhD., Department Head and Assistant Professor in the Department of Business at Lincoln University and StartUp committee member. “Each of the participants demonstrated a business proposal with sustainable business attributes.  It is gratifying to assist individuals in their passion to start a business here within our community.”

A panel of judges, made up of local business professionals from both the private and public sector, selected eight entrepreneurs who are prepared to take their businesses to the next phase of development.  Each pitch presentation was graded on five distinct criteria – Clarity, Credibility, Purpose, Realism and Passion. 

The following start-ups each received a $2,000 cash award:

  • Love My Gelato (Don Irwin) – Artisan Italian Gelato
  • Nanotechnovate (Elijah Sharp & Bret Volmert) – Rapid Pathogen Detection Device
  • Doug’s Auto Detailing (Douglas Wright) – Automotive Detailing Service

Startups receiving a $1,000 cash award:

  • 2BuyAg (Kim Harrison & Olivia Vann) – Mobile App to Connect Farmers and Buyers  
  • Rent Ready (Terry Donner) – Restoration Services for Home & Apartment Rentals
  • DIY Creative Studio (Suzanne Roush) – Sewing and Craft Classes
  • EW to New Renovations (Ryan & Kayla Wilbers) – Home Renovations
  • J-Wag Bags (Jody Wagner) Custom Hand-Made Personal Bags

“Since its inception five years ago, StartUp Jefferson City has focused on identifying startup businesses and providing them with the resources needed to start and grow their business,” said Chris Thompson, Business Development Specialist with the UM-Cole County Extension Office. “The pitch competition is a great vehicle to connect with and support entrepreneurs within our community.”

Small businesses are the economic backbone of most all communities as they provide sustainable employment opportunities, generate tax revenues for the local economy, provide community involvement, and contribute to a community’s identify as these are only a few of the attributes they provide. A quick check of the Chamber’s member businesses employing twenty-five or fewer employees indicates this number stands at just over eighty percent.  With this in mind, the Chamber along with StartUp Jefferson City continues to focus on offering programs and business resources to assist not only business startups but support the community’s existing small businesses as they continue to drive the local economy.

As StartUp Jefferson City moves past the Pitch It & Win It event, the group continues to provide support to each pitch participant and to anyone seeking professional business counseling.  If you are interested in receiving business counseling, please contact Shaun Sappenfield, Existing Business Manager at 638-3586 or by email @  

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