Celebrating creators, designers, builders, makers and dreamers, 38 entrepreneurs put everything on the line during the 9th Annual FastPitch Competition last week at NIU-Rockford. FastPitch was created nine years ago to identify, support and celebrate creators, designers, builders, makers and dreamers. The competition embodies the heritage of the region—the innovators, entrepreneurs and risk takers that built our community. Since 2006, 500 presenters have conveyed why their product, service, app or idea was worthy of investment, with many going on to create jobs and wealth in the community.
Thirteen finalists made the stage vying for cash prizes and a six month coworking space/membership at one of our region’s three business incubators.
The first place winner, P.J. McGuire, solves an age-old problem with her Wrapperoo™ product; “Look Your Best, No Mess!” Wrapperoo™ is the only hair and beauty solution which assists in drying your hair and keeping styling chemicals, wet hair, hot tools, debris and make-up off your skin and clothes—it’s both a towel and cape. For the guys, it can also be used while shaving or trimming after they’re dressed. McGuire presented on ABC’s “Good Morning America’s” mini ABC “Shark Tank” and received a thumb’s up from program investor Barbara Corcoran.
Second place winner, Doug Hoang’s product is 4Motion exercise clothing. Embedded with sensors, 4Motion exercise clothing provides users with an informational and addictive experience to achieve fitness results and prevent injuries. Doug shared, “Thank you for putting the event together. It was a lot of fun—great job!”
Brad Marshall and Paul Fowler took third place with AdsOrTails. A Rockford-based tech startup, AdsOrTails facilitates a fun connection between local businesses and consumers. Brad shared, “Over the past two competitions, FastPitch provided my business partner and me an opportunity to test our unique online idea to engage the Rockford community and support local businesses as well as the confidence to have our site go live.”
An important addition to this year’s competition was the Dale Falconer Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. The late Dale Falconer, owner of Seward Screw Products, was one of the founding board members of both EIGERlab and TechWorks. He was a leader and outspoken supporter for entrepreneurs and manufactures in our region. Dale provided ongoing financial support and guidance to EIGERlab and the FastPitch Competition. He was full of passion, energy and fun, and continually invested time and money to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the region. NIU EIGERlab along with Seward Screw Products has elected to honor his memory by creating the Dale Falconer, Spirt of Entrepreneurship Award. This will be an ongoing award that will be presented annually to the participant that most embodies Dale’s passion, energy and spirit of giving back.
Nicole Sdao received the inaugural Falconer award for her business, FundrasingCommitte.net. This one-of-a-kind idea connects non-profits with information that enables them to thrive and focus on their individual missions. Nicole said, “The Dale Falconer Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award is such an amazing honor! Ideas, businesses, and companies come and go but the spirit can touch someone and infect them with the same fire – that’s amazing, that’s what living is all about. It’s clear that Dale Falconer had that infectious spirit and to be honored as the first recipient of an award embodying his spirit…truly awesome, mind-blowing and humbling all at the same time.”
New this year, Nicole Sdao was awarded with the Dale Falconer, Spirt of Entrepreneurship Award for her idea, FundrasingCommitte.net. This one-of-a-kind idea connects non-profits with information that enables them to thrive and focus on their individual missions.
Tim Benedict clenched the CleanTech award with his product, Diesel Life Support System (DLS²). Tim conveyed, “FastPitch was a great experience and I’m honored we were one of the winners—so many great inventions.”
Keynote speaker and founder of Sittercity.com, Genevieve Thiers, impressed the audience with her wide range of entrepreneurial expertise. An inventor, investor, mother of young twin boys, and opera singer Thiers speech was delivered in a humor-laden, off the cuff manner, but her message was clear: never stop trying; persevere at all costs. She was highly-impressed with the finalist’s presentations and shared that she was interested in potentially investing in several of their ideas.
Other FastPitch finalists included: Jacob Bradt, RockfordBuzz.com; Lisa and Erik Chamberlin, Guardian Angel Armour; Dane Christianson, X-Cube; Antoine Clark, KINEXX; Daniel Haas, Tarp Buddy; T.J. Hicks, Digital Storybox; Zina Horton, Zammuto’s; Griffin Kelly, TRAC; and Dan Szczesny, PopularMentions.
FastPitch presenters and other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs can seek assistance and support through many services offered through the NIU EIGERlab Innovation Network. Project management, prototyping, investor pitches/introductions and business development assistance at all levels can be obtained through NIU EIGERlab and its network of skilled professionals.
The Racine | Kenosha FastPitch Competition will be held on August 19 at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd. in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Presenters who did not win a cash prize at the Rockford event can once again compete.
The 2015 FastPitch Competition was made possible by the NIU EIGERlab Innovation Network, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, StateLine Angels, and our fabulous sponsors: Alpine Bank, City of Rockford, Colorlab Cosmetics, Growth Dimensions of Belvidere & Boone County, IL Small Business Development Center at RVC, IL Procurement Technical Assistance Center at RVC, Leading Edge Hydraulics, Northern Illinois Renewable Energy Summit & Expo, Rockford Area Realtors, Rockford Bank & Trust, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Local Development Corporation, Savant Capital Management, Seward Screw Products, Stillman Bank, U.S. Bank, Universal Die Cast, WilliamsMcCarthy, Winnebago County and Wood CPAs.