Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm
Jessica Bell, a former sommelier, couldn’t find the kind of plastic wine glass she was seeking, so she invented it. Bell, founder of Whitefish Bay-based HaloVino, was one of three Wisconsin entrepreneurs who presented their companies on the first episode of “Project Pitch It” season 2 on Saturday.
“When I’m served wine in a plastic cup, I let out a little whine in both senses of the word,” Bell said in her presentation. “I whine because my wine tastes cheap. But I also let out a little wine on my shirt, my shoes, or worse, someone else’s because plastic cups are messy.”
The shape of Bell’s glasses help prevent spills and make the wine taste better, she said. Hers is the first shatterproof, stackable, stemless plastic wine glass. It can be used for picnics and at outdoor and sports events.
She provided a standard plastic glass and her own glass filled with wine for the judges, local business “moguls,” so they could smell and taste the difference.
The judges asked her about competitors, and they were pleased by the fact that the HaloVino product is manufactured locally.
In the end, they agreed she has a great product, but needs to quickly gain investment to stay ahead of the competition.
“It has the potential to scale,” said entrepreneur Jerry Jendusa, one of the judges.
Alex Hart-Upendo, a Racine entrepreneur who was 10 when the episode was filmed, presented his Build-A-Bow company. It’s a custom hair bow, bow tie and pet bow retailer and special events service.
“This idea came about after I was being bullied in school. A lot,” he said. “The reason why is because I tested as gifted and I had a higher IQ range than other children in my age group. They called me names like ‘nerd’ and ‘dork.’”
Hart-Upendo, who wrote a book about his experience, wants to inspire other children to be themselves and become entrepreneurs. He asked the judges for help in franchising his company.
“If you give me this one shot, I promise you won’t be sorry,” he said.
Milwaukee attorney David Gruber, one of the judges, tried on a bowtie.
“What he’s done is he’s taken a really awful situation and really turned it into a good opportunity,” said franchisor Deborah Allen, another judge.
A Butler-based franchise of JDog Junk Removal and Hauling, run by Andrew and Isaac Weins, also appeared on the episode.
“Do you guys have junk or know someone that does? Well, I have veterans willing and able to haul junk and I need more,” Andrew Weins said.
“We basically remove anything except for hazardous waste, chemicals and spouses,” he joked.
The franchises are run exclusively by veterans, and there are now 90 nationwide. The company’s goal is to hire 10,000 veterans by 2025.
JDog aims to empower veterans throughout Wisconsin via entrepreneurship. The Weins brothers are helping the company form five more franchises throughout the state by identifying and training veteran franchisees. JDog was seeking a cash infusion to help.
“They touched on the trust a couple of times but when you hire movers, sometimes you’re just a little nervous,” said entrepreneur Jim Lindenberg, another judge. “With a veteran, feeling like you have that trust, that integrity there, that’s a great concept.”
At the end of the episode, JDog was awarded a $10,000 cash prize; Build-a-Bow received free tuition, mentoring and office space at Cardinal Stritch University; and HaloVino earned a business dinner with potential advisors and investors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.
Project Pitch It airs on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. on WISN 12. View the full list of judges and entrepreneurs for season 2 here.