Stellar Tech Girls takes top cash prize during season premiere of Project Pitch It

The return of Project Pitch It, a Wisconsin program similar to “Shark Tank,” this weekend saw a new batch of entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of moguls for their chance to win several prizes.

The winner of this week’s $10,000 Project Pitch It Award was Marina Bloomer, founder and program director of Middleton-based Stellar Tech Girls. Bloomer is a former aerospace engineer looking to make sure no young woman interested in STEM gets left behind.

Bloomer said although 74% of middle school girls initially express interest in STEM, only 15% of the engineering workforce consists of women.

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“When you’re 12 years old, you’re desperately trying to figure out who you are and how you fit it,” said Bloomer. “Unfortunately for girls who love science and technology, it can be hard to find your people and place.”

Stellar Tech Girls is an empowering STEM program for girls and non-binary kids ages 9-14. The program, which is a one-week day camp, aims to provide a welcoming environment that builds participants’ confidence. Stellar Tech Girls also provides weekend workshop opportunities and birthday events.

“Companies like my company, we need a pipeline of engineering talent, so what you’re doing is impressive and important to the future growth of business in Wisconsin,” said Gale Klappa, WEC Energy Group executive chairman and Project Pitch It mogul.

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This week’s Jendusa/UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center award went to Rice Lake-based Trailhead Adventures. The company rents new Polaris side-by-side off-road vehicles. Dana and Jennifer Heller, founders of the company, want Trailhead Adventures to become the go-to place for off-road rentals in northern Wisconsin.

The company is looking to attract more Monday through Thursday riders, as well as corporate outings and team building events. Trailhead Adventures’ 14 vehicles all have a GPS system that shows drivers the various off-roading trails throughout the state.

“We need financial assistance to help our family-owned business continue to grow our customer reach,” said Dana Heller.

The company has already applied for destination signage to attract more visitors.

The Hellers took home a $5,000 cash prize as well as support services including investment guidance and mentoring from UW-Milwaukee’s Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and “BreakthruU.”

Elzie Flenard III, founder of Wauwatosa-based Podcast Town, is this week’s We Energies/DNA award winner. Flenard created his media company to help other businesses build trust, grow influence and increase authority through the use of podcasts.

Podcast Town is a full-service podcast agency that works with its clients to expand both their content and audience.

Podcast Town has helped organizations including the University of Wisconsin-Extension and Marquette University with their respective podcasts.

“As a business owner, you have to be out there, your face has to be visible and you have to be everywhere,” said Flenard. “Podcasting gives you the ability to do that by partnering with podcast hosts and podcast brands who have already done the hard work of building an audience.”

Flenard won $1,500 and at least one session of mentoring in marketing from a company leader.

The next episode of Project Pitch It airs Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on WISN-TV Channel 12 in Milwaukee. BizTimes Media is a media partner for Project Pitch It.

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