Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm
Blue Mangoes, a Milwaukee social enterprise that helps rural fruit farmers in eastern Africa and Central America dehydrate and export their abundant product, won the $10,000 cash prize on Saturday’s episode of “Project Pitch It.”
It was the final episode of season three of the entrepreneurial pitch show, which airs statewide. It appears locally on WISN-TV Channel 12. Several Milwaukee business moguls review the pitches on the show, and choose which startup receives which award.
Two other companies pitched on the final episode: Bayside-based PlasmE LLC and Milwaukee-based Artery Ink LLC. PlasmaE received the Stritch Pitch Award, which includes business classes, office space, mentorship and staff support from Cardinal Stritch University. Artery Ink earned the Pitch In Award, which is a mogul-hosted forum with investors and experts in marketing, finance and networking.
Joshua Shefner, founder of Blue Mangoes, developed a passive solar dehydrator that can be built using local materials in Panama, Haiti, Kenya and Uganda, and does not require electricity. Farmers there place the fruit in the wood and brick machine and within two days, it is dehydrated and ready for shipment back to the U.S. as a fair trade product, he said.
“Have you protected the product at all from an IP standpoint?” asked Jerry Jendusa, one of the moguls.
“Instead of going the route of intellectual property, we went with an open source model,” Shefner said. “The idea of it is to expand the production as much as possible by working with these communities. And we find more value in having more dehydrators and having them replicated.”
“I don’t know if there’s a way to increase that production. I think they need money to develop a faster process,” said Peggy Ann, another mogul.
Gloria Ramirez and Mara Natkin, owners and creators of Artery Ink, told the moguls about the inspiration to start their business.
Five years ago, health problems meant Ramirez was forced to change her lifestyle.
“Being the awesome partner that I was and am, I followed along with a lot of her lifestyle changes,” Natkin said. “We dove into a lot of research, we started learning how our bodies worked, understanding them better and treating them better.”
After making those changes, the artists wanted to share their findings with a wider audience, so they incorporated anatomical images of different parts of the body into their work. One of their most popular designs, “Heart of Milwaukee,” is a drawing of a heart with icons representing Milwaukee inside it.
The shirts and posters Artery Ink makes are now sold online, at events and in more than 40 stores nationwide. And the company is also working with medical professionals to use custom images for patient education, they said.
“When you think about the medical field, which is huge already, and being able to use it maybe as a way of having conversations with people about their conditions or as an ice breaker,” said Deb Allen, another mogul.
Mark Karstedt and Paul Goudy pitched PlasmaE, which makes water filtration systems that can be used by a consumer or scaled for use at a water treatment facility.
“PlasmaE is dedicated to cleaning up the world’s water supplies. How are we going to do that? We’re mimicking nature. We’re using aeration, at very low cost and highly efficient, to help clean up waterways and lakes, streams, rivers and ponds,” Karstedt said.
“People have had aerators for years. It’s a natural way of cleaning up the environment. The difference is these are inexpensive,” Goudy said.
The pair said PlasmaE’s filter could even be scaled up and used for water desalination, creating safe drinking water in impoverished areas.
“Everyone’s concerned about what they drink, what their family drinks, what their family’s jumping into, what’s surrounding them, so I can see the sell being good to somebody who lives on the lake,” said David Gruber, another mogul.
BizTimes Media is a media partner for “Project Pitch It.”