OneBowl is a microwaveable, single-serving bowl with a built-in strainer. Photo via fb.com
An experienced pitch competitor won the first re-booted 5×5 Night.
During the first 5×5 Night produced by emerge West Michigan, Justin Herd was selected as the winning entrepreneur of the monthly pitch competition and received $5,000 to fund the next step in manufacturing his OneBowl product.
The event was hosted this week in downtown Grand Rapids at Start Garden.
OneBowl allows the user to cook, strain, eat and store food in a single bowl, and its design incorporates a built-in strainer and snap-on silicone lid.
Constructed from a BPA-free polycarbonate blend, OneBowl can withstand heat from a microwave and dishwasher.
“I have had to circle back around and re-engage with manufacturing,” Herd said. “I want to do it locally, so I know who I am working with.
“We negotiated if I can bring $20,000 to the table, they will cover the rest of the costs. I needed a $10,000 down payment and of that, I had $5,000 already. The 5×5 Night was extremely timely, and the perfect amount of money to be ready to engage and start manufacturing in Holland.”
The monthly pitch competition is designed for five entrepreneurs to present their ideas to a panel of five judges for the chance to receive $5,000 in grant funding to move their idea forward.
“I thought the event was run really well,” Herd said. “The judges did give some feedback and were able to ask some questions. I’m thankful for the chance to be there and the opportunity to win. I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that come through, and I look forward to coming back and share the progress.”
Laurie Supinski, director of emerge West Michigan, said emerge is really committed to helping entrepreneurs at every stage of the game, and 5×5 Night is a chance for entrepreneurs to receive validation from community votes and the competition.
“It is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to throw an idea out there — that is usually for most people at the concept stage,” Supinski said. “We ran it pretty much the same way Start Garden ran it in the past. We didn’t veer too much. We were extremely happy. We had a great turnout, and the presenters were pretty happy.”
Supporting early ideas
With the re-launch of the emerge 5×5 Night program, emerge West Michigan assumed the organizing role for the monthly pitch competition to maintain support for entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of the startup process.
As Start Garden evolved and became more involved with companies in its portfolio, Supinski said the early stage space would have been lost.
“They couldn’t operationally do it anymore, and financially they were moving into a different model,” Supinski said. “We wanted to see that early stage, idea stage opportunity keep going. By having us run and host the 5×5 Night program, it gives us the opportunity to connect with the people coming through the program.”
As a regional organization, Supinski said emerge wants to reach other areas of the region to tap into entrepreneurs who normally wouldn’t attend a competition in Grand Rapids, but she anticipates hosting the next emerge 5×5 Night competition at Start Garden’s space.