Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm
West Bend-based Light Fruit Co. LLC won the $10,000 cash prize on Saturday’s episode of “Project Pitch It” on WISN-TV Channel 12.
The successful Milwaukee-area business moguls who review Wisconsin entrepreneurs’ pitches on the show selected the dehydrated melon producer to receive the Project Pitch It Award so it can expand nationally.
Taralinda Willis, co-founder and chief executive officer of Madison-based Curate Solutions, received the Pitch In Award, which provides the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to meet investors and experts in marketing, finance and networking at a mogul-hosted forum.; and Paul Terpstra, co-founder of Janesville-based Klover Products Inc. received the Stritch Pitch Award, which includes business classes, office space, mentorship and staff support from Cardinal Stritch University.
Co-founder James Van Eerden came up with the idea for Light Fruit Co. two years ago.
“I woke up one morning hungry for a snack, so I went downstairs to my refrigerator, opened it up and found a nice tray of ice cold watermelon waiting for me,” he said. “So I grabbed a piece out and I went to town on this piece of watermelon.”
After ending up with watermelon running down his chin, onto his shirt and the floor, Van Eerden got his dehydrator out. He and fellow University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Mathew Kemper, co-founder, have competed in multiple pitch competitions since.
“Through this process, we were able to grow Light Fruit Co. and test over about 500 customer discovery interviews,” Kemper said. “In addition, too, we’ve sold and sampled over 1,000 units, and are excited to share that we are the first to market with these products.”
“I love that, that you reacted to your idea so quickly,” said Peggy Ann, one of the moguls. “It probably was in your head that, ‘My God, I’ve got to do this because somebody else is going to do it otherwise.’”
“It was a good taste. I mean, that’s the first, second and third thing,” said David Gruber, another mogul.
Curate Solutions has developed artificial intelligence software used to gather information from public municipal meeting minutes and agendas to provide construction firms with early information about construction projects for which they may want to submit a bid. It processes more than 100,000 documents in the Midwest each week.
Willis said Curate serves 50 customers in nine states, and wants to expand nationally.
“Our goal is to help our customers be the local expert in their market,” she said.
“She understands the construction industry and then she has a partner that understands the artificial intelligence,” said Jerry Jendusa, another mogul. “And then to scale it nationally. It has the potential to scale, though.”
Klover Products makes parabolic microphones used to pick up sound over long distances, which are most often used in sports settings.
“If you heard the Packers’ kicker kick a field goal on Sunday or the Brewers outfielders catch a fly ball, all of those sounds were captured on our products,” Terpstra said.
He pitched the moguls on a new, smaller parabolic microphone product called Sound Shark that is targeted to wedding videographers and parents of kids in sports.
But the judges were skeptical of its appeal to a wider market.
“At the end of the day, it’s what do customers want and what will they pay for?” asked Debbie Allen, another mogul.
BizTimes Media is a media partner of “Project Pitch It.”