Hy-Vee gave away $50,000 to winners of its first OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit pitch competition Thursday.
Fifteen small business owners had the opportunity to pitch their current venture and plans for a potential expansion if they were to win a prize. Contestants came from across the Midwest in health, wellness and beauty, food & beverage and technology & innovation businesses for the chance to win a prize of up to $30,000. Each contestant had just five minutes — followed by five minutes for questions from panelists — to pitch their business.
The top prize of $30,000 of the competition went to FAVORYT Brand. FAVORYT Brand makes all in one roll-on skin and hair care products make for easily accessible applying and styling. Products come attached with a brush for on-the-go maintenance. The company also makes a variety of other skin and hair care products, but the focus was on its roll-on products and expanding distribution efforts.
FAVORYT Brand is run by Amy Woods and husband Joshua Woods. The inspiration behind the company came from their four young children. The duo was having a hard time finding all natural products made for sensitive skin and coarse hair for their kids. FAVORYT started with beard care products but expanded to skin and hair products with the same focus on on-the-go, all natural products.
“This is honestly a game changer for us. It came literally right on time. We applied for this pitch competition on the last day of the applications. We had several people send it to us,” Amy said. “So it’s just, it’s right on time. We have the distribution opportunity coming up and we will actually be able to supply enough product to keep up with it. That was our biggest stress point right now.”
FAVORYT has found success as of late, but the $30,000 prize is a way for them to continue to capitalize on that success. It currently sells its products on its website, Amazon and, most recently, opened a brick-and-mortar store, at 2415 Main Street in Seymour, where the company is headquartered.
$5,000 went to the winners of each category of business at the pitch competition:
Health & Wellness — EverFit
Based in Shawnee, Kansas, EverFit was founded by Dawn Rattan to create accessible fitness. Rattan offers affordable, judgment free, fun, friendly and low impact fitness classes in the Shawnee area. EverFit aims to remove barriers to access in fitness through creating affordable, accessible and intimidation free environment to reach personalized health goals. Her plans for the money is to expand to a possible second location to continue EverFit’s mission.
Food & Beverage — Yip’s Snacks
Madison-based business Yips’ Snacks makes yogurt chips meant to replace the hassle of trying to get a healthy snack in. Yips’ Snacks makes Yips’ Yogurt Chips. The yogurt chips were created by Parthenon Gyros’ co-owner Erin Vranas to find an on-the-go solution to finding a healthy snack. Yips’ Yogurt Chips can be found at a few local Madison businesses and on its website.
Tech & Innovation — Altruize
Altruize offers a way to centralize and track data for volunteering. Founded by Nicole Sadough as a way to eliminate the frustrations behind keeping track of and verifying volunteer data, Altruize currently runs via an application for Android and iOS and is used by a variety of different non-profit organizations and its volunteers to track.
Sadough was inspired to create a better way for universities and their applicants to submit their volunteer hours as standardized tests, like the SATs and ACTs, are no longer required by UW Schools and many others across the nation.
Volunteer work and co-curriculars have become a deciding factor for admissions now, according to Sadough, and she would like to alleviate some of the struggle to get proof of volunteer work for students.
Two additional contestants were given discretionary prizes of $2,500.
Valley Self Defense, one of the two discretionary prize winners, is a one-of-a-kind self defense business. Based in Stillwater, Michigan, Valley Self Defense is the only trauma informed self-defense business in the world. The company aims to provide its self-defense lessons to those who have experienced trauma.
The other discretionary prize winner is a newer local business – and crowd favorite – Luscious Beauty by Courtney. Courtney Ellington creates all natural skin care products at her business. She is overwhelmed and feels out of her depth running her own business but is intent on learning. Her goal with the prize money is to attend school to learn how to operate her business better and improve upon her product recipes.
In addition to the pitch competition, two panels were held, and a keynote speaker talked about seeking venture capital. The two panels discussed being vendors and getting your products on shelves and a second on marketing.
Hy-Vee plans to hold another similar style competition in 18 months in Omaha, Nebraska.