Entrepreneurs hope to smack home runs during EIGERlab’s FastPitch

Tracie Burress, seen here with her husband, Glen, and EIGERlab’s Sherry Pritz, earned $5,000 as winner of the 2014 FastPitch competition for sockTABs.
Tracie Burress, seen here with her husband, Glen, and EIGERlab’s Sherry Pritz, earned $5,000 as winner of the 2014 FastPitch competition for sockTABs.

Tracie Burress earned $5,000 for her winning idea of sockTABs at last year’s EIGERlab FastPitch competition.

What has happened since then for the Rockford resident can only be described as priceless.

“Winning FastPitch meant everything,” said Burress, whose product addresses the age-old problem of mismatched socks. “It legitimized that what I had was a very good option to fill a void in the marketplace.”

EIGERlab is NIU’s comprehensive resource where entrepreneurs and inventors collaborate with pioneering leaders to incubate and accelerate businesses. Since 2007, the lab has hosted the FastPitch competition that invites the best and brightest to pitch their ideas to a panel of esteemed judges from the business and investment community.

“To have an idea and bring it to a competition among other great ideas simply confirmed things for me,” Burress said. “It gave me credibility and a lot of confidence to move on and to move forward … to truly pursue this as a business and to try and bring this concept to the marketplace.”

Burress founded sockTABs.com in 2014 as a way to alleviate sorting, matching and searching for lost socks. When she took part in the EIGERlab FastPitch competition, sockTABs was still in the prototype stage.

“After I won, (EIGERlab) continued to work with me,” Burress said. “They helped me from a marketing standpoint and from a business contact standpoint. This is an awesome place to get started, to launch a dream and to launch a business. The community support has been tremendous.”

sockTABs logoToday, sockTABs can be found in a number of retail outlets. In addition, Burress said she has auditioned for a national television show that allows aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their concept, and is waiting to hear if she will be selected.

Burress is just one of many success stories.

“FastPitch is great for the region,” said Sherry Pritz, NIU EIGERlab coordinator of marketing and business development. “If we can support people in starting their own business and then employing people, it’s a win-win for the region.”

On June 17, 44 participants will take “the mound” in hopes of pitching the best idea. In addition to the competition, attendees will have the opportunity to learn from keynote speaker and Sittercity.com founder Genevieve Thiers, who will share her entrepreneurial wisdom.

“We are really excited about our speaker, Genevieve Thiers,” Pritz said. “She had an idea on a napkin, and she thought of this business that has grown exponentially. She filled a need and a void, and I think that gives people hope and the incentive to also try to do something.”

FastPitch will be held Wednesday, June 17, at NIU-Rockford. Initial presentations begin at 3:30 p.m.; final presentations will start at 5:30 p.m. The event is open to the public.

For more information, contact Pritz at (815) 316-6357 or email spritz@eigerlab.org.

by Jane Donahue

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