Milwaukee-based Kan-U-Hoop and Mequon-based Wheeliworld took home two prizes on Saturday’s episode of “Project Pitch It” on WISN-TV Channel 12.
Both startups earned the Project Pitch It and Stritch Pitch prizes, which include $10,000 and up to 3 courses at Cardinal Stritch University, access to innovation space and faculty and staff mentoring for one year.
Kan-U-Hoop founder Derrick Talbert grew up in Milwaukee playing “cans,” a game whereby two players take turns tossing a basketball back and forth at crushed soda cans placed at each person’s feet. As a kid, Talbert would play cans at home because gang violence prevented him from going to the basketball courts.
Along with Alexis Talbert, the entrepreneurs revolutionized the game by designing a set of two targets to replace the cans with pads or targets that use a flashing-light point-tracking system.
Standing before Project Pitch It moguls, the Talberts were looking to boost their marketing efforts.
“What we’re looking for is to be marketed in some type of way as tailgating, basketball arenas or stores,” Derrick Talbert said.
The moguls agreed that Kan-U-Hoop would serve as a great tailgating activity including mogul Peggy Ann, who suggested the entrepreneurs could even market their game to those 21-years-old and up.
“I didn’t think about tailgating but that could be a fun, trendy tailgating activity, said Jerry Jendusa, Project Pitch It mogul.
DJ Bluma, who has a background in IT, co-founded Wheeliworld, a “know before you go” solution and online directory where individuals with disabilities can search for venues and view them in an interactive way using 360-degree images.
Bluma said he and other individuals in wheelchairs suffer from anxiety when going to new places.
“For me it is about encountering the unexpected obstacle and not being able to fully access the venue,” Bluma said. “Sometimes it's just easier to stay home.”
Wheeliworld has plans to launch a free app for users and venues. However, once the company reaches a large number of users, it will offer a subscription service to both users and venues.
Bluma asked moguls for investors, citing anticipated legal costs and the need for additional cameras.
Based in downtown Kenosha, Elsie Mae’s Cannery and Bakery was the third business to be featured on the episode. The company makes more than 10,000 pies a week out of a 900 square-foot kitchen.
Using ingredients from local farmers, Elsie Mae’s produces pies, pot pies, Bloody Mary mixes and jam. The company sells its products at farmers markets and other retail locations from the north side of Milwaukee to the south side of Chicago.
James and Kelly Deem own Elsie Mae’s, which was named after Kelly Deem’s grandma.
“She definitely gave me all of these recipes to start from but, I always tell everyone she gave me something way better than recipes,” Kelly Deem said. “She gave me her time and style of baking and canning that is very familiar to other families.”
The couple admitted they have been overwhelmed with the amount of orders and are in need of a way to scale up their business. However, both James and Kelly Deem said it's important to stay true to their customers who have supported them for so many years.
“So, it’s safe to say that you have an opportunity to scale in a couple of different ways and it could be a little be challenging as to which direction to go,” Jendusa said.
“That is a huge challenge,” Kelly Deem said. “Right now, we’re so far into our business that I don’t know if I can see the correct direction for everything we have because I’m so embedded in every daily task of what we do now.”
Elsie Mae’s was awarded the Get Unstuck Award, which includes $5,000 and one year of business coaching and strategy deployment.