Socially responsible drinkware biz wins big at Pitch Day

By Mark Wilcox

Wyoming Business Report

JACKSON — A drinkware business that gives water to communities in need with every sale won two of three awards at this year’s Pitch Day in Jackson.

Organizers refer to the event pitting local entrepreneurs against each other as “Shark Tank, Jackson Hole Style.” The event allows each of six businesses to vet their business model to a crowd of hundreds in the Center for the Arts and win awards including a cash pool of $11,000, coaching opportunities and six months of free rent at organizer Silicon Couloir’s co-work space.

After eight years, founders of the event said that this year’s competition to get in was the toughest they’ve seen with 13 highly qualified entrepreneurs attempting to get on stage.

Panelist Choice Award

Powwater, the drinkware company, earned the grand prize Panelist Choice Award with its young business model that generated $21,000 in revenue its first month and brought clean water to over 15,000 people. A group of six hand-selected judges ranging from bankers and capitalists to business owners and a representative of the Wyoming Business Council chose the winner of the award.

Powwater sells reusable bottles and powder-coat finished steel tumblers where 35 percent of proceeds provide chlorine filtration systems to schools in Kenya and Nigeria via Impact Water, and to financing UV Led water filtration systems in Bangladesh through Shishir Water.

The business model was incubated by Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, and charity partners get vetted through his network, the company said.

“These solutions compound over time while achieving the high level of community development needed to operate sustainably,” the company wrote.

The Panelist Choice Award carries with it a $7,500 cash prize and is given to the most compelling business idea with the greatest likelihood of success and funding.

Audience Choice Award

The Audience Choice Award, which is selected by audience members who text in their favorite of six presenters, went to Mountainist. The company rents adventure gear like off-road and snowmobiling kits to women with the option to buy.

“For women who want to get into mountain sports, gear options fall into one of three categories: very expensive (new), designed for men (majority of gear available to rent or borrow)or unsafe (gear that is too big, or not the right gear for the job),” wrote founder Tana Hoffman in Pitch Day materials. “Beginners need a better way to access affordable gear.”

She said that women are the fastest-growing demographic for snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, off-road recreation and mountain biking. Even so, she claimed Mountainist is the first and only women-specific online gear rental service.

The Audience Choice Award carries a $2,500 cash prize as well as six months of access to Jackson’s co-work space managed by Silicon Couloir.

Bob Arndt Community Caretaker Award

Panelists also gave Powwater the Bob Arndt Community Caretaker Award for its socially responsible approach to business.

The $1,000 award comes with coaching through Silicon Couloir’s TEAMS Program, a mentorship program based on MIT’s Venture Mentor Services program. The award goes to the company that best embodies Silicon Couloir’s vision to align entrepreneurship and community with promotion of a diverse economy and healthy environment for current and future generations.

Other companies represented at Pitch Day 2019

Authentag: One of eight companies recognized by the U.S. as a company that can help pharmaceutical companies verify the legitimacy of their sales channels and products. By mandate, pharmaceutical companies must provide this by the end of the year. The company already has 200 companies using its applications, which use its patented platform of distributed blockchain ledgers to verify the origins of pharmaceuticals. The company expects revenue of $2.5 million in 2020.

Buddy Pegs: Founded by the former owner of a bike shop that became a Top 100 Bicycle Shop, Buddy Pegs made news when founder Scott Fitzgerald hit the road for an eight-month national tour to launch an early-childhood bike program. His company’s two children’s books have sold more than 20,000 copies, and Fitzgerald has brought in $360,000 of equity investments to get his newest venture off the ground.

Franco Snowshapes: Mikey Franco said his team builds the “most exclusive, bespoke and custom fit snowboards in the world.” The company sold 40 boards in 2018 with an average price of $2,500, but has amped its capacity to produce up to 300 boards a year. “Off the shelf snowboards are no longer adequate for the high net worth client,” Franco wrote in Pitch Day materials. “Mass-produced snowboards lack a personal, precise and experience-based process our customer is demanding.”

Visably: Founder Chris Dickey is bootstrapping Visibly after developing a successful PR agency where he noticed some serious problems. “Despite the fact that billions are spent on services to improve brand domain SEO ranking, it’s exceedingly rare to rank in the first page of search results for popular non-branded keywords,” Dickey wrote. His software as a service aims to measure, manage and create first-page brand visibility on the first page of search results with what he calls a first-to-market solution.