Greendale woman gets ‘Project Pitch It’ $10,000 prize for her handcrafted cosmetic brushes

Izabelle Villafuerte, founder of Empresaria Cosmetics. (Image courtesy of Project Pitch It).

Greendale resident Izabelle Villafuerte, founder of Empresaria Cosmetics, took home the Peg Ann/David Gruber Project Pitch It $10,000 cash award this week on Project Pitch It.

Villafuerte and her father handcraft cosmetics brushes using wood. She started this business due to a lack of variety in the cosmetics market when it comes to the aesthetics of makeup brushes. The designs of the brushes tie into Villafuerte’s background as a Latina woman. The most popular design resembles a bolero toy. The brushes are also vegan and cruelty-free.

“I’m here today because I want to learn how to scale this (business) as it’s still just my dad and I in my garage,” Villafuerte said. “I really want to expand our reach in Milwaukee and Wisconsin as our biggest customer base is (currently) in California.”

Villafuerte hopes to get her brushes into retail locations and is looking to put some money into advertising, as all her sales have been through word of mouth on social media.

Milwaukee resident Jared Judge, founder of BookLive, was the winner of the American Family/We Energies $1,500 award.

BookLive provides training and software to help musicians make a living off performing.

“I wanted a career in music and so I did what everyone told me to do – take lessons, get a degree in music and I was really trying hard and it all kind of culminated in me taking auditions,” Judge said.

As Judge was taking auditions, he faced a series of rejections. He asked professors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar School of Business what he should do to be successful. After learning some business basics, Judge then launched his own wedding band, which became a six-figure a year business.

To help his peers in the musical industry, Judge also began sharing his newfound business knowledge.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, BookLive pivoted to also allow “Virtual Serenades,” a feature that enabled users to send friends and family a live recording of their favorite song performed by a local artist.

“The problem wasn’t getting enough work to make a living. The problem then became I was too busy,” he said. “I needed a manager to manage me while I was managing these other gigs. I couldn’t afford one, but I thought what if there was an app that could do that?”

Over 1,000 musicians are currently using BookLive and they have collectively earned over $2 million. A challenge the company is facing is making the platform mobile-friendly. Judge is hoping to hire a mobile app developer to take BookLive to the next level.

Brian Fox was the winner of the Jendusa/UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center $5,000 award.

Fox, a resident of Eldorado (in Fond du Lac County), founded his company Angler Armor after experiencing vandalism in his own marina. His neighbor had their boat stolen, which led Fox to start thinking about ways to boost security.

He invented a completely digital boat alarm for tournament-style fishing boats and has a patent pending. If a boat using the Angler Armor alarm leaves a set geofence area, the owner of the boat will receive real-time tracking notifications on their phone.

“My brother, who is an avid bass fisherman, asked me, “Could I take that alarm idea and turn it into something for a bass boat?’ because there is nothing like it on the market,” Fox said.

He told the Project Pitch It moguls that only 1 in 10 stolen fishing boats are ever recovered and the price of a fully rigged fishing boat can approach $100,000. Fox’s product has attracted the attention of professional fisherman, who he hopes can become influencers in marketing the alarm.

Project Pitch It airs Saturdays at 10:35 p.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin on WISN-TV Channel 12. BizTimes Milwaukee is a media partner for Project Pitch It.

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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