Six Racine businesses have completed the Launch Box Growth Accelerator
at Gateway Technical College and will compete in a May 15 pitch contest for seed funding.
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Alex Upendo, center, of Build-a-Bow won the Launch Box pitch competition in 2017.[/caption]
The Launch Box Growth Accelerator, an 11-week program funded in part by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., is held at Gateway’s SC Johnson iMET Center in Sturtevant. It aims to give startups and existing businesses support to help them launch or grow. Launch Box also has a co-working space on the Racine Gateway campus.
At the competition on Tuesday, five judges will evaluate the pitches and choose the top three. The first place winner will receive $5,000, second place will get $4,000 and third place will receive $3,000. The runners up will each receive $2,500.
The companies are:
- Marc Spang Flooring Installations. An existing business owned by Marc Spang, the company participated in the accelerator to get to the next level of growth. Spang is particularly interested in establishing an office space and hiring and training employees. “I liked the idea that it was an existing business and he was taking the initiative and then I’m also looking to diversify the group and he’s a Hispanic gentleman,” said Thalia Mendez, business resource manager at Launch Box.
- Cake My Day Bakery. Established by Argentinian immigrants Jacinta Lagos and Maria Victoria Julian, Cake My Day established itself as an LLC through the Launch Box accelerator and completed its market research. The bakery will focus on an Argentinian dessert called alfajor. “They really got going with their customer discovery and went into coffee shops and set up little displays,” Mendez said. “They’ve been getting such a good response that they’ve gotten their LLC, we were able to connect them with a licensed kitchen here in downtown Racine…and they just got into Milaeger’s Farmers Market.”
- Wishful Collections. Michelle Pedersen calls her business a party in a box. The company plans to offer at least 20 types of themed party décor customers can rent. “It’s all the props that you need for a themed party. She’s already got eight collections and she’s well on her way,” Mendez said.
- Destroy Iron. Established by Charlie Davidson Jr., who owns an Anytime Fitness franchise, Destroy Iron offers a line of athletic wear he developed. The clothing is based on comfort, quality and style. Davidson is currently selling it online and at his gym. “He really wants to take it to the next level,” Mendez said.
- Square One Solutions LLC. Existing business owner Brian Repa distributes an innovative window cleaner called PURETi Clean & Fresh that would also improve the indoor air quality around the window, and continue working long after it’s applied through UV activation. “It’s a technology that’s popping up in other parts of the country, but they’re going to be the sole distributor here,” Mendez said.
- NJM Consultants. Nichalas McGovern has established a technology consulting business for those who need assistance setting up a smart home. Initially, McGovern was focused on helping seniors use smart phones and tablets, but by conducting market research during Launch Box, has decided to pivot to smart homes. “He’s done the research and people buy it and they don’t know how to use it,” Mendez said.
The judges are: Retired banker and SCORE volunteer Jim Longe; Matt Monroe, vice president of commercial lending at Tri City National Bank; Heather Lux, project director at Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.; Jacquin Davidson, managing director of WERCBench Labs; Mary Fischer-Tracy, business consultant for the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
“Every one of these (accelerator companies) I feel really good about,” Mendez said. “I know that we’re going to be hearing great things.”
The pitch event will take place Tuesday, May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the SC Johnson iMET center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd. in Sturtevant. It is open to the public with pre-registration. Attendees can register by contacting Mendez at firstname.lastname@example.org.