Firefighter directional device wins $10,000 prize on ‘Project Pitch It’

Kiddie Mobile and VibeTech earn mentorship, training

Jerry Jendusa, David Gruber, Deborah Allen, Peter Feigin and Jim Lindenberg will be featured as panelists in the second season of “Project Pitch It.” Other panelists include Tina Chang and Nancy Hernandez.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:21 pm

The third episode of “Project Pitch It” season 2 on Saturday introduced three new Wisconsin entrepreneurs to viewers, who competed for three prizes.

The Northern Star eight-directional compass.

They were: Eau Claire-based Northern Star Fire LLC; Milwaukee-based Kiddie Mobile LLC; and Sheboygan-based VibeTech Inc.

Northern Star is a small, eight-directional compass that goes inside a firefighter’s facemask. It allows firefighters to maintain their orientation using the cardinal directions while in low visibility situations.

“Over my career, I’ve found that there’s a certain problem that firefighters are facing on a regular basis: disorientation,” said Jeff Dykes, owner and founder of Northern Star Fire. “Every day, hundreds if not thousands of firefighters charge into dangerous, unfamiliar environments without being able to see their hand in front of their face.”

Dykes, a fire captain with the Eau Claire Fire Department who has more than 20 years of experience, is working to raise $300,000 for the business. He said there is nothing like the compasses on the market, and firefighters currently follow their hose lines to get out of burning buildings. This product could save lives, he said.

One of the business mogul judges on “Project Pitch It,” Syslogic Inc. chief executive officer Tina Chang, asked Dykes how much it costs to make the compasses he invented. Dykes replied that it depends on the quantity ordered, but the products retail for $150.

Keyona Vines started Kiddie Mobile after her young daughter did not get off her school bus and Vines wasn’t able to find her for 45 minutes.

“The great thing about this camera is it records what’s going on in the van, as well as what’s going on outside of the van,” she said.

Kiddie Mobile transports up to nine children in a luxury, insured van. It offers group transportation for parties and other events, and Vines plans to begin offering private transportation as well.

“What I’m looking for is pretty much mentoring,” she said. “There’s not a lot of businesses out there like it.”

Mogul Jerry Jendusa of Stuck LLC said there is an opportunity for Kiddie Mobile to use cooperative marketing.

“She had a personal experience that motivated her and that motivates a lot of people,” said attorney David Gruber, another mogul.

Jeff Leismer, founder and CEO of VibeTech Inc., pitched his vibration therapy machine, which he said is useful for every hospitalized patient and those undergoing physical and occupational therapy.

“Your muscles actually are contracting as those vibrations are being passed through your legs,” he said to mogul Jim Lindenberg of Lindy Enterprises Inc. as he tried it out. “We have gains on the order of 10 to 20 percent in strength immediately following treatment.”

The machines cost about $22,000 to build. Leismer is working to raise a $2 million funding round to develop two-way communication with the machines and market the product more widely.

“We are selling it not as a product, but we are actually selling a service subscription for facilities that are capturing revenue from insurance companies and Medicare for the treatment of patients,” Leismer said.

“How many machines do you see yourself producing over the next year?” asked mogul Deb Allen, former president and CEO of Nevada Corp.

Leismer said VibeTech is targeting production of 15 machines this year and plans to ramp up to 800 total within five years.

“We are looking to be able to get people back on their feet, where the cost of care is tremendously lower and the quality of life is much higher,” he said.

In the end, the moguls awarded a $10,000 cash prize to Northern Star Fire; business classes, office space and mentoring from Cardinal Stritch University to Kiddie Mobile; and investment advice, mentorship, introductions to local investors and strategy development from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar School of Business and Stuck to VibeTech.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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